Newman Cardinals remain unbeaten after three

The Cardinal Newman Cardinals continue to dominate the annual high school football competition known as the Father Ron Cote Cup.

The visiting Cardinals defeated the Bishop Ryan Celtics, 17-7, Wednesday (Sept. 25) to capture the hardware for a third consecutive year.

The Cote Cup, introduced in 2011, is presented to the winner of the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic Athletic Association senior league’s regular-season contest between Cardinal Newman and Bishop Ryan. Named in honour of the former principal and retired priest who served at both schools (BR from 1962-75 and Newman from 1975-77) the Cup promotes a friendly sporting rivalry on the gridiron between the neighbouring squads.

Cardinal Newman celebrate their third consecutive win of the Cote Cup. (Photo: Gerry Graham)

During the award ceremony at mid-field, Father Cote said: “Next year, I predict Bishop Ryan is going to win.”

And what does Anthony Macaluso, head coach of the two-time defending HWCAA champion Cardinals think of that comment? He just laughed it off. Said Macaluso: “The good thing about the Catholic faith is that we allow confessions. So he’s good. We’ll forgive him this time. We’re a very merciful faith.

“This is more than just a regular-season game for us. It has meaning. The kids enjoy playing against Bishop Ryan. It’s a good rivalry. A lot of them on both teams are friends. I’ve had the opportunity to coach a lot of the BR guys with the Hurricanes and the Ironmen (summer league organizations).”

The victory improved Newman’s 2013 league record to 3-0. That’s tied for top spot with the St. Jean de Brebeuf Braves who edged the St. Thomas More Knights, 24-23. In Wednesday’s other contest, the Cathedral Gaels topped the Bishop Tonnos Titans, 13-12. The St. Mary Crusaders were idle. The rest of the standings are as follows: More, 1-1; Cathedral, 1-1; Bishop Ryan, 1-2; Tonnos, 0-3; St. Mary, 0-2.

Newman raced to a 14-0 lead by half time. And on both of those second-quarter touchdowns, safety Justin Connolly played a key role, intercepting two of Celtic quarterback Eric White’s passes. The first of the picks set up a five-yard TD run by Mitchell Atlee. Then, on BR’s next possession, Connolly again gathered in a similar-looking deep lob pass over the middle. Newman immediately put together a short drive capped by a quick eight-yard touchdown toss from quarterback Matthew Metcalfe to Grade 11 running back Connolly.

“He’s such a good athlete on both sides of the ball,” Macaluso said of Connolly. “Whenever he really wants to use his football sense he can make plays like that. He has the knack of being in the right place at the right time. He’s a phenomenal athlete. He’s Mr. Everything for us.”

Safety Justin Connolly (4) picked the ball twice from BR, then took in a toss as running back for a TD. (Photo: Gerry Graham)

Connolly returned his interceptions for about 20 yards each time. He also ran the ball effectively from scrimmage and handled the kickoff and punting duties.

“I watched the quarterback’s eyes for a bit,” Connolly said of his interceptions.

The Celtics rallied in the second half and got on the scoreboard with nine minutes left in the fourth quarter when lanky wide receiver Stefan Olivieri went up in the air to pull down a 10-yard touchdown pass on third down from White. Five minutes later, however, the Cardinals padded their lead when Marcus DiLoreto booted a 24-yard field goal.

An interception at his own goal line by Newman’s Zack Sibley snuffed out some offensive momentum on BR’s second last possession. Three passes to Mark Fournier for first downs highlighted that drive.

Photo: Gerry Graham

“The biggest message today was that we’ve got to play four quarters,” Bishop Ryan coach John Fleming said. “We can’t spot teams 14 points and expect to challenge in the second half. I’m proud of the way our kids stuck with it. I think the league is still wide open and we can be there at the end.”

Brebeuf trailed 10-7 at the half en route to its one-point victory over More. The Braves touchdowns were scored by Justin DiPietro (a one-yard run), Luca Finelli (60-yard interception return) and Jake Lee (a 38-yard reception). Robbie Puddu added three converts and a 21-yard fourth-quarter field goal.

Osayi Iginuan had a pair of one-yard touchdown runs for More. Liam Ritz scored on a 25-yard pass reception for the Knights other major. Jason Walsh contributed two converts and a 15-yard field goal.

Newman officials say the new artificial turf at their school will likely not be in place in time for the scheduled home opener Friday, Oct. 4 against More. Where the game will be played, however, is still being discussed.