Recalling the 1998 shootout

The year 1998 was an important season for the Huronia Stallions varsity team.

The team was very young and it was the last year before the program added a junior varsity team and a house league for younger children interested in learning the game.

The '98 edition lost their first seven games of the season. However, the team was competitive and five of the losses were by a touchdown or less.

The Stallions' opponent for the last game of the season was the Niagara Storm, were quarterbacked by a special player named Tom Denison. Denison had already been featured that season in Sports Illustrated's Faces in the Crowd section after passing for more than 800 yards in a victory over Brantford.

He would later go on to win two Hec Creighton trophies for best Canadian university football player at Queen's University.

The Storm had a highly unorthodox attack. They would never punt on fourth down, regardless of down and distance and field position. The offence was always run with a high-tempo, no-huddle approach and every kickoff was a short kick.

They also always went for two-point conversions after touchdowns.

This style created several stoppages in play and games would often run an hour or more longer than usual.

The Stallions' strength was their running game. Tailback Townson Ramsey was one of the best in the league and would later go on to be a starter at Acadia University.

The offensive line was very good led by veterans Rob Henderson and Luc Heming.

This also marked the final game of my three-year playing career with the Stallions. I was the starting fullback on offence, played inside linebacker and was the signal caller on defence. I also played on every special team.

Prior to the game, coach Clint Uttley informed me that I would be spelled on offence because of the pace of the game. I asked him if I could play the full 60 minutes in my final game, despite the pace, and he relented.

The game quickly became a shootout with each side scoring at will. Denison was an unreal opponent and moved his team down the field with quick strikes in a dazzling aerial attack.

The game lasted more than three and a half hours and finished with a combined 97 points. By the fourth quarter, I couldn't get into my stance on defence because my legs were so tired.

However, this would be our day. Two Ramsey touchdowns in the fourth quarter salted the 52-45 victory for the Stallions. He finished with more than 200 yards rushing and two touchdowns.

I played the whole 60 minutes and finished with 78 yards and three touchdowns. For Rob Henderson, nose tackle Marshall Stevenson and myself it was our final game.

The younger members of the '98 edition would lead the '99 team to an epic playoff showdown with the Mississauga Warriors in the next edition of Stallions Stories.

Next year marks the 20th season for the Huronia Stallions. In the weeks leading up to the Vanier and Grey cups, assistant coach Jason Romisher, the Stallions' media and recruiting co-ordinator will be outlining the football program and what it has meant to the Barrie area.