Heading into Saturday's 3A 12-man football provincial final, the North Battleford Comprehensive High School Vikings had an arsenal of offensive weapons at their disposal.
Quarterback Damon Dutton had led the Saskatoon Secondary Schools Athletic Directorate 3A division in passing yards in the regular season (1,844), while receivers Presley Peterson and Zach Wolfe each had over 400 yards receiving. Then there was Grade 11 running back J.T. Lamb, who blew away the competition with over 1,000 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns in the regular season, and had topped 200 yards rushing in each of his two playoff games.
But come Saturday, with a provincial championship on the line against the Yorkton Raiders — a team that had defeated the Vikings in North Battleford in the 1994 provincial final — none of those offensive catalysts ended up being the MVP.
Instead, the team's defence, as a whole, was the real MVP, much like they were in their SSSAD title-clinching game one week prior.
This time, the Vikings defeated Yorkton 14-7 to win the provincial title for the first time in 22 years.
"Everyone was just so amped up. It was the big game," Vikings running back J.T. Lamb said after the win, who had both touchdowns but also played on defence throughout the playoffs. "We just came out firing. Our defence was just lights out, all game."
The Raiders only touchdown didn't even happen until the final minute of the game, with them trailing 14-0. After that running touchdown cut the score to 14-7 with 37 seconds left, Yorkton tried an onside kick, but Lamb cleanly caught the kick before quarterback Damon Dutton took a knee to end the game.
After the game, Dutton was asked if the defence topped their performance from the 26-15 win over Tommy Douglas in the SSSAD final one week earlier.
The answer was obvious.
"Oh, easy! Way better, man," he said. "Seven points and their touchdown right at the end of the game? You can't complain.
"[Today] couldn't have gone any better. We came out with the win. This is all I could ask for. I speak for everybody when I say that, I'm pretty sure too. This is all everybody wants."
So how did they manage to do it?
"We were getting lots of pressure on the quarterback, so that was forcing turnovers," graduating defensive back Kolby Hedit said. "[To win] means the world. We've been through everything together and this year we really clicked. It's like another family."
Heidt and Dutton are two of 25 graduating players, which is simply an astronomical number.
Vikings head coach Mike Humenny said the Grade 12s were certainly part of the reason that things ended up the way they did.
"You can't really beat the experience of our guys. Those 25 Grade 12s, boy I'm excited for those guys today," Humenny said. "The defensive line was awesome. To only allow one touchdown against a team that was undefeated and put up a massive amount of points in southern Saskatchewan this year, boy I'll tell you, our defence was on fire today."
Yorkton's defence was extremely solid as well.
Dutton threw two first-half interceptions, something he hadn't done all season long.
After the Vikings went up 14-0 early in the third, they were never able to add to it.
"It was difficult to [put them away]. Yorkton just kept on fighting," Humenny said. "We went with J.T. Lamb and kept on trying to run the ball but credit to them. They didn't make it easy on us.
"That's a heck of a football team. Very well coached."
Lamb also pointed out how difficult it was for him to find room, which had seemingly been relatively easy until the final.
"Their linemen were pretty big so we weren't getting too much of a push off the line of scrimmage and it was pretty hard to find gaps," he said. "[But] you kind of just put your head down and go straight at them and see how many yards you can get."
A packed house at Beaver Lions Stadium also made the game even more memorable for the players.
Lamb credited alumnus Bob Bartkewich for starting a pre-game tailgate party that also helped get more fans in the stands.
"Everyone came out to that and then came to the game," Lamb said. "I appreciate that."
It seemed many of those in attendance came to support coach Humenny, as it was even hard to get a hold of him for the post-game interview because so many wanted to tell him congratulations.
"As I'm looking around the crowd, I'm seeing guys I was teammates with and I see guys that I've coached with and my parents and grandparents are here, my brothers are here," Humenny said. "I'm just extremely happy right now. I'm very, very happy...It's a special feeling."
On Twitter: @NathanKanter11
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