Gators topple Monarchs in AFL final

A member of the Calgary Gators gets sandwiched between a pair of Fort McMurray Monarchs players Saturday at SMS Equipment Stadium. Robert Murray/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network

Robert Murray – Fort McMurray Today – Monday, August 28, 2017

When it came to fan support at SMS Equipment Stadium in Saturday’s Alberta Football League Championship game, those in favour of the visiting Calgary Gators were few and far between. By the end of the night however, they left as the happiest of the bunch.

The Gators played giant-killer Saturday evening, taking down the Fort McMurray Monarchs by a 32-21 score, ending the Monarchs’ bid for back-to-back Alberta Football League Championships and a shot at repeating as national champs.

A Monarchs club that had looked so dominant in their six regular season games suddenly faltered. Deric Davis looked human against the defence of the Gators while the Gators offence continually shook off blow after blow to overpower the Monarchs’ defence.

“We had this one on our calendars,” said Dylan Halliday of the Gators. “We knew this was going to be the big game.

“[We] dug in deep and we balled out today.”

The Gators quickly washed away memories of their 43-17 loss on June 3 and got to work on ending the Monarchs’ perfect season.

Bolting out to a 14-0 lead, the Gators started the early workings of stunning the crowd and their opponents who were coming off a long layoff. Though the Monarchs got those points back, getting touchdowns from Dylan Elias and Tevin Godfrey, it wasn’t enough to slow down the Gators.

Some lacklustre ball handling on both sides then resulted in another Gators touchdown while a 52-yard field goal late in the half put the Gators up by 11 heading into the break.

The bad breaks continued for the Monarchs in the second half as pair of Gators touchdowns put the game out of reach while the Monarchs could only muster a single touchdown from their war chest of offensive options that had reigned supreme just weeks earlier.

“We lacked chemistry early,” noted Elias. “The practice can’t compare to the game. We got a little bit on ourselves early.

“Every time we got rolling, something happened and we weren’t able to bounce back from it.”

One of the bad breaks in particular came when the line judge threw a flag an offside flag for a play he was distracted on, while in plain view of the Monarchs bench. The resulting outrage trigged multiple objectionable conduct calls and saw one of the team’s top players in Jourdain Alexis ejected from the contest.

That wasn’t the play that broke the Monarchs or cost them the game, but rather piled onto their already miserable night.

“The Gators came and they banged; they took advantage of what they had,” continued Elias. “Aside from all the other factors, they played a better game.”

The Gators will now head to Ontario to compete in the national championship game in September.

rmurray@postmedia.com