Falcons take flight over Phoenix

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Who knew Falcons were snowbirds.

The Foothills Falcons took to the air as quarterback Tyson Pitcher threw six touchdown passes en route to downing the Springbank Phoenix 46-6 in a Tier II high school provincial playoff game Saturday at a snowy Falcon Field.

“It was cold enough that it wasn’t wet — wet is what really bothers you when you are passing,” said the Grade 12 Pitcher, who finished with 258 yards passing.

In fact, the snow and the -10C temperature might have helped — hey, the receivers knew where they were going when they ran down the field.

“Their DBs were playing our receivers really close and our guys were able to get behind them,” Pitcher said. “I just lobbed the ball up and the receivers just went and caught it.”

The passing wasn’t a coincidence.

“I think we are trying to make sure both parts of our game is working — we know Payton (Price) is always going to be there,” Falcons coach Darren Olson said.

Price finished the game with 142 yards rushing.

Foothills receiver Keaton Neish — who backs up Pitcher at QB — hauled in three TD passes to go with his 114 yards receiving.

“He was amazing,” Pitcher said of the High River pass-catcher.

The Falcons scored early and often.

They took a 6-0 lead when Pitcher lobbed a pass into the hands of wide-open Tanner Young for a 17-yard major. The opening drive was kept alive when slotback Payton Burbank broke a tackle and rushed for 12 yards on a third-and-five gamble.

The Falcons would make it 13-0 when Pitcher rolled out and hit Neish with a 19-yard TD strike.

Foothills got the ball back on the ensuing kick-off when Seth Nelson booted a José Altuve like screaming groundball, which was bobbled by a Phoenix upman. Burbank pounced on the ball and Foothills had a first-and-10 at the Phoenix 50 yard-line.

Nelson was rewarded for his knuckleball kick with a 15-yard TD reception to up their lead to 19-0 late in the first quarter.

Foothills would add another TD in the opening 24 minutes when Neish got behind the defender for a 43-yard major to make it 26-0 at the half.

Defence gets an assist as the drive got started by an alert d-lineman with good hands.

Falcon defensive lineman Matt Bruce picked off a pass from a scrambling Phoenix QB Grady Munro. The Springbank signal-caller was trying to evade fast-charging linebacker Carson Remus on a screen play.

“I saw it was a screen and the ball came right in my hands,” Bruce said. “Our defence has been doing its job — keeping them to less than 10 points each game.”

The Falcons would add a seven-yard rushing TD by Price along with18-yard and 57-yard receptions for majors by receivers Young and Neish, respectively, in the second half.

The gritty Phoenix didn’t rise up for the victory, but they didn’t lie down either.

They got on the scoreboard when Munro tossed a five-yard major to Brendan Frolek.

Phoenix coach Tony Lucas said his team didn’t give up, but were just overmatched.

“They (Foothills) did a good job in capitalizing on breakdowns in our secondary,” Lucas said. “We moved the ball, but only got that one touchdown.”

He sees the Falcons as a solid contender to win their third consecutive provincial championships this season.

“Their blocking and tackling and how aggressive they play — they play at 100 miles per hour,” he said. “I don’t know about the other teams at provincials, but we are a better team than last year and they beat us by about the same amount.”

The Falcons will now host the provincial quarter-final at the Comp on Saturday at 1 p.m. They will play the winner of the Catholic Central Cougars-Medicine Hat Mohawks, who play on Nov. 7.

They will be ready.

“Our whole defence is young, but everyone is doing their job,” said Remus, who will play for Team Western Canada at International Bowl in Dallas in January. “Our team has only gotten stronger in the playoffs.”

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