#CFC50 No. 39 Citadel Phoenix set to take on Flames in championship rematch

This Sunday at Huskies Stadium in Halifax, the #CFC50 No. 39 Citadel Phoenix and Sir John A. MacDonald Flames are set to square off in the NSSAF Division 1 championship game.

The Phoenix edged out the Flames by a score of 32-12 in last year’s final to achieve their second consecutive championship title. Both teams have had impressive seasons again this year, and this game is guaranteed to be a highly competitive battle once again.

Led by coaches Mike Tanner and Jon Dyer, the Phoenix have put together another successful campaign on both sides of the ball, going undefeated since their tough 15-14 loss against the Charles P. Allen Cheetahs in Week 2.

“Overall, we have had a very successful year,” coach Dyer said. “We lost one game this year by one point and we were lucky enough to avenge that loss in the semi-final.”

“Most importantly, our kids have had a great experience on an off the field and regardless of the outcome on Sunday, our coaches, family, and school are proud of our kids.”

Citadel’s strong season has been the result of everyone working together towards the ultimate goal. The foundation of success that has led to back-to-back championships has continued to shape the Phoenix this season.

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“Commitment and hard work are always our key to success,” Dyer said. “Every one of our kids has bought into our team philosophy and we achieved great results because of it.”

The Sir John A. MacDonald Flames have really come on strong since the start of the season. Head coach Paul Moore says this year’s success is the product of a committed group who all play a role in every single victory.

“We have had a fantastic season so far,” Moore said. “Our team has been physical, motivated and fun to watch play football. Our success this year is built on guys buying into playing their roles on the team. Egos aside, and do whatever it takes to win.”

“It also helps when we have some really great athletes and tough football players as well. We were also surprised at our numbers turnout this year, we didn’t expect as many players as we have, and everyone has contributed. Its just a great group of young men,” added Moore.

The Flames coaching staff knows that this game will bring the most out of both teams and Moore is looking forward to seeing how his team has improved since the Week 5 meeting between these two familiar foes. The Phoenix beat the Flames in their regular season match-up 31-7.

“From the Citadel game we learned that our effort and desire to win needed to be a lot better, and our mental toughness needed to be stronger,” offered the Flames head coach.

“It was a good loss to learn from, our mistakes caught up to us, and we were mentally beat early in that game. We got away from what we do on offence in that game, and the turnovers started to happen. They play good sound defence and you need to fight for every yard against them.”

The Phoenix coaching staff and players also took a lot away from their regular season match-up against the Flames. Citadel will be looking to build on the success they found in that previous game.

“I think we learned a lot in the game,” Dyer said. “It was fairly early in the season but our kids have the confidence coming into the game knowing that if we play our best, they will be champions.”

But realizing that team’s reach their full potential as the season progresses, the Citadel coaching staff knows that the Flames are playing their best football at the right time.

“Sir John A are a very different team right now,” Dyer said. “They have been winning big in their games and are executing well. This will be a very different game and we expect a close one to the last minute.”

It is the Flames offence that has been particularly dominant in recent weeks, and with their speed and athleticism they are sure to present a difficult match-up for any defensive front they line up against.

“We are a fast offense, and we have confidence,” the Flames head coach said. “In the last 4 games we are just peaking at the right time, we are playing for each other, and our energy is contagious throughout the team. This team has been on a war path.”

With both team’s possessing game-changing offences, Sunday’s match-up will be another major opportunity for the Phoenix and Flames play-makers to shine.

Citadel’s rushing attack led by outstanding senior Jack Campbell and the ultra-athletic Tyrique Dixon-Bowden will be a major challenge for the Flames defenders to contain for four quarters.

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“Citadel’s offence is big and very well coached up front,” Moore said. “Really good fundamentals in their blocking scheme and the design of their offense. But, our defence is good. We fly around, we’re physical and fundamental.”

“Everyone wants tackles. We just need to continue to keep playing good gap discipline defence and win the physical battle up front, and not give up any big plays.”

Coming off some extremely strong defensive performances to close out the season, the Flames are poised to meet Sunday’s challenge head-on. Led by a ferocious front that includes impact edge rusher Anderson Recker and linebacker Donald Blue, Coach Moore is confident that the Flames defence can handle their end of the bargain on Sunday.

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“The past two games our defense held the top two rushing teams (next to us and Citadel) CEC and CPA to under 50 yds on the ground,” Moore said “We play motivated and fast we’ll be ok”

The Flames have perhaps the best all-around offensive talent in the Maritimes in Adam Bennett, and they will look to establish some ground dominance of their own. Bennett had another huge season this year in both the running and receiving game, accounting for over 1200 all-purpose yards and more than 20 touchdowns.

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“Adam Bennett has been our work horse all year,” Moore said. “One of the best players I’ve ever coached.”

Dyer and the Citadel coaching staff know they will have their hands full with Bennett on Sunday, but are confident in their defensive unit’s ability to continue their strong play like they have all season long.

“Adam Bennett is a special player,” Dyer said. “He’s going to make plays and you have to live with that.”

“When it comes to slowing them down, we have to be sound with our assignments, tackle well, pursue, and make them put together long drives. Our defence has been lights out all year and any offence that puts up points on them is going to have to earn every yard.”

On offence, the Phoenix will look to the explosive trio of Monecko Clayton, Jack Campbell and Tyrique-Dixon Bowden to open things up and sustain scoring drives behind a strong offensive line.

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“Offensively, we just need to execute,” Dyer said. “If we eliminate mental miscues, I believe we have the personnel to beat anybody. It’s tough to win football games in November if you can’t run the football so we need to establish the line of scrimmage and pick our spots down field.”

“Jack Campbell and Tyrique Dixon-Bowden are two fantastic running backs, it’s no secret that our offence is successful when we are running the ball well,” added Dyer.

In addition to the workhorse Bennett, the Flames have been led by several key contributors down the stretch, including quarterback Chris Duplisea and x-factor Josh Pinfold. With Josh Pinfold lining up on defence, offence and as a dangerous returner, he is expected to come up big once again on Sunday.

“He is dangerous on special teams, and really gets our offence in great field position. You always have to account for him on offence and defence as well, as he’s coming off 2 TDs and an Interception in the semi finals, with 110 punt return yards,” Moore said.

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The Flames coaching staff are approaching this game with full recognition of how big the moment is. Along with an adjusted game-plan designed to Citadel, Moore is making sure his team doesn’t let the big stage change how they execute.

“Our mental preparation is the key for this game,” Moore said. “The X and O’s are slightly adjusted for our game plan, but it’s our mental game at this point. Championship games are emotional, and the game is up and down. Getting the players ready to handle all the emotions and keeping their focus is our main priority.”

Looking for their third straight championship title, the Phoenix have shown that they can win big games in the biggest moments. Coach Dyer knows that winning Sunday’s game would be a great way to send off the graduating players who have meant so much to the Citadel program over the past few years.

“It’s another banner to hang in the gym and a great way to honor our seniors who are graduating,” Dyer said.

“We have been very fortunate to achieve the success we have in the last 9 years. If we win this year it’s because of the work we did in the offseason and in practice leading up to this game. It will mean a lot to the special group of players who are graduating.”

There is no question that winning a championship is the ultimate reward for months and months of hard work. The Flames coaching staff understands just how much a victory on Sunday would mean for both their players and a football program that has enjoyed incredible support.

“A Championship would mean the world to these kids,” Moore said. “Most of them grew up playing together since the pee wee days. The community, past players and coaches and the school are always behind us. The Flames nation always comes together once playoffs roll around. Our support is awesome! It’s extremely tough to win a championship in this province as you always need to go through Citadel.”

“This group is special, we are hungry and determined,” added Moore.

With two supremely talented teams possessing multiple game-changers on both sides of the ball, you can expect Sunday’s game to come down to the final minutes. Coach Dyer and the Phoenix know that limiting mental mistakes and playing disciplined ball will make all the difference on Sunday.

“Turnovers, penalties, and explosive plays,” Dyer said. “If we limit our penalties, win the turnover battle, and make a few big plays, I like our odds.”

Citadel is approaching Sunday’s matchup like business as usual, and with it being the final test of the season coach Dyer knows his young men will leave absolutely everything on the field and give their all for a third straight championship.

“Sunday’s game is just like any other. Our kids have been here before and we are preparing to win this game no different than we did in week 1. The nice thing is that we know it’s all over on Sunday so our kids will empty their tanks and leave it all on the field. If that happens, there is no winner or loser.”

We expect this game to live up to the expectations and for it to be the most exciting battle of the season. With so many players that can take it to the house on any play, both team’s have the weapons to break things wide open. We think that the Flames will give Citadel’s defence all it can handle, and they will avenge their week 5 loss en route to a narrow championship victory.

Sunday’s NSSAF Division 1 championship game between the #CFC50 No. 39 Citadel Phoenix and the Sir John A. MacDonald Flames is set to kick-off at 1pm at Saint Mary’s Huskies Stadium.

 

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