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Tigers football overcome 19 point deficit to win AFL championship
The Dalhousie Tigers overcame a 19-point deficit with 11 minutes to play to beat the UNB REDS 27-26 and capture their second consecutive Atlantic Football League Championship.
Both teams traded turnovers through each of their first three possessions, the REDS fumbling and the Tigers turning the ball over after failing to convert a third and one.
UNB would strike first on their fourth series.
On first and 10, from his own 42, UNB quarterback Hunter Sturgeon found Sebastian Brown for a 33-yard reception to put the REDS at the Tigers 30.
Sturgeon would find an opening on the next snap and run it the rest of the way for a 7-0 lead for UNB with 6:08 left in the opening quarter.
After being stopped short in four plays on their next drive, the Tigers would place a punt deep in UNB territory, forcing the REDS to start from their own five-yard line.
Dalhousie would force a fumble and draw a roughing the passer penalty on the next two plays to set up first and goal, which Tigers’ quarterback Noah Glover would push across the line.
Dal kicker Matthew Irvine would miss the extra point to make it 7-6 UNB.
On the next REDS possession, Sturgeon snapping from his own 22, the UNB quarterback would find Dom Hall at centre field with a pass that Hall would run down to the Tigers 22.
Sturgeon would run for a first down at the Dalhousie four and then into the endzone the following play for his second major and a 14-6 lead for UNB just 19 seconds into the second quarter.
The REDS would force three and outs on the next two Dal possessions before Morgan Martin would intercept a Tigers pass on the next one at the Dalhousie 32-yard line with just under four minutes left in the half.
Sturgeon would run 17 yards for a first down at the 15 and then find Brady Manderville with a pass to set up first and goal at the five-yard line.
Sturgeon would run the ball into the endzone two plays later for his third touchdown of the half and a 21-6 UNB lead with 2:12 left in the half.
UNB was not finished though as the first pass of the next Tigers’ drive was once again intercepted, this time by Cole Schneider, giving the REDS one more possession at the Tigers 21-yard line with two minutes left in the half.
However, Dalhousie would suffer minimal damage, forcing UNB to a 25-yard field goal attempt that Ryan Lee would put left of the uprights for just a single point, giving the REDS a 22-6 halftime lead.
After a scoreless third quarter, UNB would find themselves deep in Tigers territory once more, just two minutes into the fourth.
After a costly offside penalty for Dal, Sturgeon just missed connecting with Brown again on a deep endzone pass and would settle for a field goal for a 25-6 lead with 11:02 to play.
Glover finally found the Tigers some second-half points on their next drive, marching his offence down the field and finding Aidan Keefe with a touchdown pass in just 2:41 to cut the lead to 25-13 with 8:21 to play.
The Tigers would quickly stall UNB’s next possession and then march down to the five-yard line where Glover would find Fergus Dogterom deep in the endzone to cut the lead to 25-20 with 4:33 to play.
On the next UNB possession, Brown, Lee and Sturgeon would convert first downs to get into Dal territory.
A holding penalty put the REDS at first and 20, at about mid-field, before Sturgeon carried to just shy of 20 with under two minutes to play.
This led to another UNB field goal attempt that Lee would miss, making it 26-20 UNB with 1:10 to play.
A strong punt return on the Tigers next drive gave them field position at the 44-yard line.
Dalhousie would advance into UNB territory, but a penalty put them back to third and six at the REDS’ 49.
Keefe would then come up with a huge 25-yard reception and the game tying touchdown catch two plays later to take the lead 27-26 with just 11 seconds remaining.
“I’m ecstatic! I was crying when the game ended,” said Keefe. “Everything that we knew we could do was there, we just had to execute.”
A final hail mary throw from Sturgeon came down incomplete and UNB would come up short.
“I don’t want to say that anything went wrong for us, they got the ball into the right guy's hands,” said the REDS’ Jordan Colpitts.
“All respect to them, they played a crazy game.”
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