With just enough offense to keep things honest and a defense that bent but didn’t break, the London Beefeaters brought the Teddy Morris Trophy, symbolic of Ontario Football Conference supremacy, to the Forest City for the first time since the team’s inception in 1975. The Beefs edged the Hamilton Hurricanes 19-16 at TD Waterhouse Stadium on a windy, wet evening Saturday (Oct. 13) to capture the crown and deny the Hurricanes a third straight title.
London also beat Hamilton in their last meeting during regular season play, 61-21. The Hurricanes had advanced to the league final with a 36-28 semi-final win over the Ottawa Sooners, while London dropped St. Leonard Cougars, 27-17 in the other semi.
On Saturday, the Beefs entered the OFC final minus two of their outstanding running backs. Travis Ryan didn’t dress due to injury and league all-star Kyle Woldenberg-Puyda dressed but didn’t see action due to a lingering problem. Both are expected to play in two weeks.
In addition to that problem, the Beefs starting quarterback, Rob Lyons, was playing for the first time since suffering a concussion in August and was, understandably, a little rusty with only three practices under his belt. Nevertheless, he was able to provide just enough offense to get the job done.
The game was a tight defensive battle for most of the evening. The Beefs opened the scoring late in the first quarter on a single by Zack Medeiros on a punt from the Hurricane 34. Early in the second quarter the ’Canes conceded a safety to up the score to 3-0 and that’s the way it was at half time.
Hamilton came out like gangbusters at the start of the third quarter and quickly put up 14 points as quarterback Kyle Johnston, OFC Outstanding Offensive Player of the Year, hooked up with wide out Daniel Parr for touchdowns of 59 and 49 yards respectively. Two conversions by Chris Bartolomeo made the score 14-3 and that is how it remained as the game moved to the fourth quarter.
A Medeiros 41-yard field goal in the gusty weather went wide but was deep enough for a single to make it a 14-4 game 2:03 minutes into the final frame.
The biggest play of the game came shortly after. Following a Hamilton drive that got the ball to the Beefeater 44, a five-yard loss followed by a holding penalty on the next play put Hamilton at mid-field and in a punting situation. Bartolomeo’s kick into a strong wind traveled just 27 yards into the hands of returner and OFC all-star receiver Josh Woodman who outran every one for an 82-yard touchdown. Medeiros converted and the Beefs were within a field goal of evening the score.
Following Medeiros’ ensuing kickoff that went 75 yards, the Hurricanes were able to get the ball out to their 14-yard line. Gaining only two yards on the next two plays, Hamilton was forced to punt and again the wind played havoc with Bartolomeo’s effort as the Beefs took over at the visitor’s 36-yard line.
A 16-yard reception by Chuck Wall and a facemask penalty on the play got the ball to the seven-yard line. Joel Clubine powered six yards to the one-yard stripe. An offside against Hamilton gave the Beefeaters a new set of downs from that spot and Clubine banged in on the next play for the major, making the score 18-14 following Medeiros’ second convert with 6:31 left in the contest. Medeiros boomed an 80-yard kickoff and Hamilton chose to give up a single in order to gain field position at their 35-yard line.
On the next play, Hamilton’s outstanding all-star running back, Ryan Kotar, rumbled 31 yards to the Beefs’ 44-yard line. The Hurricanes got as close as the Beefs’ 32-yard line before turning the ball over on downs. London went 3 and out and Medeiros punted the ball 62 yards on third down and Hamilton’s Justin Vanderlaan brought it back 43 yards.
With the Beefs in jeopardy, an interception by Patrick Fortune ended that threat and the Beefs took over at their 19-yard line. Unable to pick up a first down, London conceded a safety to make the score 19-16 with nine seconds left in the game.
London allowed quarterback Johnston to run around for about 20 yards but in the process time ran out and the Beefs claimed their first championship.