By Joel van der Veen
HANLEY — A win over Hague on Thursday capped an undefeated regular season for the Hanley Sabers.
But coach Mark Anderson said he’s aware of a worrying trend as he looks towards playoffs.
The Hanley senior football team hosted the Hague Panthers on Thursday, winning 80-55.
The week before that, they travelled to Carrot River, where they won 76-57 — their closest score so far this season.
“We’ve been challenged offensively the last few weeks,” said Anderson following Thursday’s game.
He said it appeared the team was taking “a couple of steps back,” calling it a somewhat dangerous place to be heading into playoffs.
“The guys have just got to figure out how bad they want it,” he added.
The Sabers have won six out of seven games in their regular season. (The sole exception was a cancelled Sept. 28 game in Viscount, which was recorded as a tie.)
The team dominated in its first four games, winning by at least four runs in each one.
They are first in their 1A conference with a 6-0-1 record, followed by Viscount in second and Carrot River in third. Rounding out the ranks are Porcupine Plain, Hague and Hudson Bay.
The Sabers rotated through their roster in Thursday’s game, allowing both seniors and juniors time on the field.
Hanley held the lead throughout, though Hague proved themselves more than worthy competitors.
The Sabers opened the game with back-to-back touchdowns by Conor Prosofsky and Rylen Bellina.
A kick to the end zone got Hague on the board with a single point, followed by a touchdown by Chris Dyck, taking the score to 16-9 going into the second quarter.
Hanley extended its lead with three consecutive touchdowns, credited to Justin Kloetz, Ryan Orsen and Samuel Gogol.
Koltin Zaichkowski wrapped up the half with a TD for Hague, evading capture as he ran halfway down the field. The score stood at 38-17 at half-time.
Hanley was denied another TD early in the third when Hague’s Jarrett Penner intercepted the ball a short distance from the goal line.
But the Panthers were unable to turn that opportunity into points, and minutes later Wyatt Olyniuk caught a pass from Prosofsky for another TD for Hanley.
A pair of players made a run of more than 60 yards on the next play to score for Hague.
Zaichkowski was tackled by Hanley’s Matthew Fairbairn, but managed to protect the ball and hand it off to Penner. That and a successful convert kick took the score to 46-25.
Rylen Bellina ran the ball in on a pass from Prosofsky for Hanley’s next TD, while Hague’s Chris Dyck leapt over the line on the next play to score for his team.
A wild, weaving run on the next play by Sam Gogol both delighted the crowd and paved the way for a Prosofsky TD to end the quarter.
Hanley led 60-33 heading into the final quarter. After a series of unsuccessful plays, Hague narrowed that gap significantly with back-to-back touchdowns by Koltin Zaichkowski and Jared Unger.
Conor Prosofsky ran the ball in with three minutes remaining to score for Hanley.
The last minute of play saw a total of three touchdowns, the first credited to Hague’s Jarrett Penner.
Rylen Bellina and Matthew Fairbairn scored back-to-back TDs for Hanley, the latter coming with a second left on the clock, and taking the final score to 80-55.
Hanley kicker Tyler Halabi made six successful converts, for a total of 12 points.
Anderson said the team is healthy heading into playoffs, with all senior players in action as of last week.
One player, Grade 10 student Will Gogol, suffered a broken arm earlier in the year, but is expected to have his cast off soon.
The Sabers will host their first playoff game on Saturday, Sept. 28 at 1 p.m. against the Cupar Wildcats.
Cupar finished their regular season in second place in the southeast 1A conference with a 4-1 record.
Anderson said he knew little about the team as of last week, but added, “If we play our game, I think we’ll be OK.”
Last year the Sabers went all the way to the top in the 2A division, defeating the Wynyard Bears 69-61 to take the provincial title in November.