Braves anniversary gift is first place in football

They’re 4-0 in the school’s 40th year of existence.

And both of those marks are reasons to celebrate for the St. Jean de Brebeuf Braves senior high school football team.

Brebeuf remained atop the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic Athletic Association standings with an exciting 28-21 victory over the visiting Bishop Tonnos Titans on Friday (Oct. 4). The Braves continue to share first place with the two-time defending champion Cardinal Newman Cardinals who defeated the St. Thomas More Knights, 24-13, at Mohawk Sports Complex. The other contest saw the Cathedral Gaels cruise past the St. Mary Crusaders, 28-6. The Bishop Ryan Celtics had the bye.

St. Jean de Brebeuf came out on top for their first game on new home turf, in front of a homecoming crowd.  (Photo: Gerry Graham)

St. Jean de Brebeuf came out on top for their first game on new home turf, in front of a homecoming crowd. (Photo: Gerry Graham)

In addition to serving as the official homecoming event for the various reunion/anniversary activities at the Acadia Drive school, Friday’s game was the first held on the Brebeuf field in two years. A new scoreboard and running track have been installed on the site and an artificial turf playing field is expected to be in place by next fall. There’s even a possibility the new field will feature a dome.

Therefore, as a Brebeuf graduate in 1987, Braves’ head coach Anthony Alfano has reason to be proud and excited.

Brebeuf Coach and Alumni Anthony Alfanso (Photo: Gerry Graham)

Brebeuf Coach and Alumni Anthony Alfanso (Photo: Gerry Graham)

“It was a special win,” Alfano said. “We had a lot of fans here today. A lot of alumni showed up. We didn’t want to lose.

“It was really important that we play well in front of the guys that built the program. We’re 4-0 and we think we’ve got a good team.”

The score was tied at 21 until the Braves took the lead to stay with one minute, 36 seconds remaining. That’s when quarterback Justin DiPietro tossed a 25-yard touchdown pass to Jake Lee. An interception by Braves’ defensive back Andrew Palmer on the Brebeuf 30-yard line then sealed the outcome.

Tonnos, trailing 6-0, 21-7 and 21-13 at the quarter breaks, shocked the Braves with a brilliant 66-yard-pass-and run touchdown from quarterback Matt Michalski to Marco Aref with 2:23 left on the clock. A one-yard plunge by Joe Radojewski – after a penalty against Brebeuf – provided the all-important two-point conversion.

Brebeuf immediately mounted another scoring drive, however. Lee’s TD came one play after a 50-yard pass reception by Santiago Velasquez.

“Before the touchdown,” DiPietro said, “Jake Lee came over to me and told me to look for him. I saw the middle linebacker and I thought I could get it between him and the corner. That’s what I did.”

A 6-foot-1, 170-pound Grade 11 student, DiPietro earlier threw scoring strikes of five and 25 yards to Noah Blake. Dezain Brooks contributed a 16-yard rushing touchdown while Blake added a two-point convert by way of a pass reception. Robbie Puddu chipped in with two converts.

For the Titans, Michalski also connected with Aref and Cameron Wright through the air for touchdowns covering 36 and 18 yards, respectively. Radojewski made one of two convert tries.

“We didn’t play well for quite a bit in the second half, but our key players made some key plays at the end and we were able to win,” Alfano said.

The outcome dropped the Titans to 0-4 (including an overtime loss to Bishop Ryan).

“It’s been a tough year,” said slot receiver Aref. “We’ve had a lot of hard luck. Unfortunate event after unfortunate event … players going down and stupid penalties.

“This game was a huge step for us, though. We’re coming together as a team. That’s what matters most. We’ll keep our heads up.”

Alfano, a former starting quarterback for Brebeuf and then the McMaster University Marauders, says DiPietro is an intelligent player with a naturally gifted throwing motion.

“He just sees the field like another coach out there,” Alfano said. “You ask him to do something and the next thing you know he processes it and can make the play he needs to make. And Justin is really athletic. He plays basketball here and is a club volleyball player. He’s a special athlete at quarterback.”

DiPietro says he enjoys playing for Alfano. “He’s the best coach I’ve ever had in any sport. And I’ve played a lot of sports. He knows the game and treats me like a man.”

The wins by Brebeuf and Newman set up a showdown of the league’s only remaining undefeated teams. That takes place Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. at Mohawk Sports Complex.

Newman got past More (1-2) under the lights Friday. Touchdowns for the Cardinals were scored by Justin Connolly, Marcus DiLoreto and Clark Adams. DiLoreto added to the scoring with a 16-yard fourth-quarter field goal plus three converts.

Receiver Billy Olds and running back Osayi Iginuan accounted the More majors. Jason Walsh also had a convert for the Knights, who trailed 21-7 at the half.

At St. Mary, Cathedral improved to 2-1 with its win over the Crusaders (0-3). The Gaels got two touchdowns by Justin Lloyd, a touchdown by Anthony Laughing plus two field goals, three converts and single off a missed three-point try by Patrick Wilcon.

Josh Parkinson replied with a two-yard touchdown run in the final couple of minutes for St. Mary.

At the junior level, Tonnos edged Brebeuf 21-16, More downed Newman 13-5 and Cathedral got past St. Mary 35-6.