Raiders win the 2017 Joe Pistilli Cup in another finals thriller

After splitting their regular season encounters at a win apiece, the Chateauguay Raiders and the South Shore Jr. Bruizers made the Joe Pistilli Cup championship final game the rubber match of the series and what a game it turned out to be. The Jr. Bruizers played just like a year earlier when they dominated the Montreal Royals during the first half and then managed to survive the Royals push in the second half to hang on to a one point victory. In this year’s final, once again they played strong in the first half and built up a 14-0 lead but were undone by penalties and turnovers that allowed the Raiders to score 33 points in the second half. The Chateauguay Raiders, on the other hand, played the final game just like they played most of their games during the regular season – starting off slowly but finishing the game in a dominating fashion.

Playing under difficult weather conditions with an intermittent rain and very strong wind gusts, it took both teams some time to figure out the right field strategy. The Bruizers had the first good scoring opportunity in the game mid way through the first quarter when they started an offensive series from the Raiders 38-yd line. Four plays later they had a first and goal at the 7-yd line. After a 2-yd rush and an incomplete pass they went for it on third down, handing the ball off to Trenton Matuzewiski but the entire Raiders defense converged on the ball carrier and stopped him just two yards outside the end zone to force a turnover on downs. The Bruizers offense didn’t get much time to rest, however, because right after that the Raiders turned the ball right over with a fumble on their second play from scrimmage, giving their opponents a first down at the 27-yd line. However, the Bruizers came away empty handed when their 37-yd field goal attempt sailed under the cross bar, making the score 0-0 at the end of the first quarter.

Early in the second quarter, the Raiders were faced with a 3rd down and three yards to go at their own 18-yd line. They lined up for a punt but instead they snapped the ball directly to Serge Pilon who tried to get to the first down marker on the outside but Kevin St-Pierre chased him down and tackled him at the line of scrimmage to force a turnover on downs. This time, the Bruizers took advantage of the opportunity and scored the first points of the game with a TD on a 19-yd catch by Vincent Hamel to go in front 7-0 (Jordan Preziuso convert kick).

After forcing the Raiders to punt on the ensuing drive, the Bruizers scored again when they marched 75 yards in eight plays, finishing with an 18-yd TD catch by Trystan Forgues to increase their lead to 14-0 (Preziuso convert kick).

The Raiders immediately responded with their first good offensive drive of the game when they started from their own 32-yd line and in six play had a first down just eight yards from the Bruizers end zone. Unfortunately, they ended up turning it over when the ball was batted into the air on a pass attempt and Anthony Boone caught it for an interception, keeping the score 14-0 at the half time break.

The Raiders tried to catch the Bruizers off guard at the start of the 2nd half with a short kick but Forgues managed to catch the ball and give his team a good starting position at its own 45-yd line. However, two plays later, the Bruizers were forced to punt but the ball was mishandled on the snap and before Matthew Veiga could try to kick it he was tackled by Sanders Armand at the Bruizers 35-yd line. The Raiders offense then quickly got a first down at the 6-yd line but they could not advance any further and they settled for a 14-yd field goal by Remy Hort to narrow the gap to 14-3.
After forcing the Bruizers to punt, the Raiders then needed only one play, a 38-yd run by Ryan Forest to score their first TD of the game to make the score 14-10 (Hort convert kick).
Things then seemed to start going downhill for the Bruizers from that point on because on their next possession they had to conceded a safety that decreased their lead to 14-12. After another short exchange of punts, the Raiders scored quickly again, this time with a 31-yd TD catch by Jaylon Murphy Greaves that gave them their first lead of the game with the score of 19-14 as the 3rd quarter was coming to an end (Hort convert kick).

Early in the 4th quarter, the Raiders appeared poised to increase their lead when they attempted a 37-yd field goal into the wind but the kick was short and Hamel fielded the ball just one yard outside his own end zone. He got some good blocks, found a lane down the sideline and then ran 109 yards into the Raiders end zone to put the Bruizers back in front 21-19, which they increased to 22-19 when the ball bounced through the end zone on the ensuing kickoff by Preziuso.

Neither team could mount match offense after that and it seemed like the score might hold up until the end of the game. It really didn’t look good for the Raiders when with little more than two minutes left on the game clock the Bruizers lined up to punt from the Raiders 36-yd line and with the strong wind at their backs. However, once again they had trouble with the snap and they ended up turning the ball over on downs at their own 47-yd line. The Raiders offense then went on the field but two plays later it appeared that their hopes for a comeback were dashed when Olivier Blanchard-Rousseau intercepted a pass by Mario Porreca. However, the interception was called back because of a “roughing the passer” penalty and the Raiders were still in business with a first down at the Bruizers 37-yd line. On the next play, Porreca threw a pass to Alex Pilon, who caught it at the 20-yd line and then outran the Bruizers defenders to get into the end zone for a TD that put the Raiders back in front 26-22 (Hort convert kick) with 1:55 left to play.

Bruizers then went back on offense from their own 48-yd line but on their second play Edwouard Valme intercepted a pass at the center of the field and wove his way from one side of the field to the other and into the end zone for a pick-six that increased the Raiders lead to 33-22 (Hort convert kick).

The Bruizers didn’t give up and they kept pressing. After getting a 37-yd return by Hamel on the ensuing kickoff they started a new drive from the Raiders 53-yd line with 1:28 left on the clock. Nine plays later, they had a first down at the Raiders 5-yd line, and on the next play Samuel Phaneuf caught a TD pass that made the score 33-29 but with only nine seconds left to play in the game. The Bruizers tried an onside kick and they recovered the ball but before it had traveled the required minimum 10 yards, which gave possession to the Raiders. They were then able to run out the clock to seal their victory and another championship trophy.

Finals: Raiders vs Bruizers
Game Photos found here
Credit: Seized Momentz

After the game, league officials, including former president Joe Pistilli, presented the championship trophy to the Chateauguay Raiders. They also recognized three players for their outstanding performance in the game:

The Most Valuable Player on Defense – Raiders #9, Sanders Armand
with QJFL Vice-President Administration Steve Britton and
QJFL Vice-President Football Operations Bill Lehan

The Most Valuable Player on Offense – Bruizers #27, Vincent Hamel
with QJFL Secretary & Registrar Elizabeth Britton and
QJFL Webmaster & Statistics Richard Morgan

The Most Valuable Player of the Game – Raiders #5, Ryan Forest
with Montreal Alouettes Draft Coordinator and National Scout Éric Deslauriers and
QJFL President Don Stark