It was a battle between the Northern Football Conference’s top two teams and the last two undefeated teams in the 10-team loop.
The G.T.A. All Stars made their way north and defeated the Soo Steelers 54-20 at Rocky DiPietro Field, clinching home field throughout the NFC playoffs in the process.
G.T.A. managed to limit the Steelers rushing game and used an arial attack for seven touchdowns in a win that saw them break the game open in the second half after leading 28-14 through two quarters.
“They blew the game open in the third quarter,” said Steelers co-coach Paul Caldbick. “To start the third quarter, we got the ball and didn’t make anything of it.”
Josh Gauthier had 82 yards rushing on 13 carries and a touchdown. Gauthier ran the ball in from 12 yards out midway through the opening quarter.
“They played straight man coverage and that allowed them to load the box and often times they played without a safety and that was definitely a problem,” said Caldbick.
As a team, the Steelers ran the ball for 115 yards on 22 carries.
Frank Weise filled in for an injured Pascal Plante and completed 10 of 21 pass attempts for 113 yards in the loss. Kyle Gauthier caught four passes for 36 yards, including a 17-yard touchdown pass. Todd Hicks also had a touchdown catch for the Steelers.
Defensively, Ryan Walker had nine tackles for the Steelers.
G.T.A. quarterback Tom Denison, who has tortured NFC defences throughout the season, completed 30 of 41 passes for 384 yards and seven touchdowns in the win. Kevin Walsh led the receiving corps with 14 catches for 152 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the win while Ricky Clarke and Chris Hibbert also had two touchdown catches each. Justene Edwards also caught a touchdown pass for G.T.A.
“Our game plan is all based on pre-snap decisions,” said Denison. “Their game plan was to play five in the box and that’s why we ran the ball (early).”
“It is the first time we were forced to run the ball as much as we did so you’re always interested to see how different guys perform,” Denison also said.
"As the game progressed, they were able to take advantage of some lapses in judgement on our part,” Caldbick said.
Richard Beckstead led the G.T.A. defence with 10 tackles.
G.T.A. improves to 6-0 with the win and remain atop the NFC’s East Division. Despite the loss, the Steelers remain atop the West Division with a 5-1 record heading into their final regular season home game on July 19 when they host the Ottawa Invaders.
In other action around the NFC on Saturday night, Tri-City beat Oakville 35-0 to improve to 3-3 while Oakville remains winless at 0-6. The Sudbury Spartans beat the Sarnia Imperials 26-16. Sudbury improves to 3-3 while Sarnia is 1-5. The Montreal Transit are 5-1 after a 69-8 win over the Toronto Raiders, who drop to 3-3 with the loss. The aforementioned Ottawa Invaders are now 3-3 thanks to a 39-0 win over the 105 Steel City Patriots.