Something had to give when the St. Mary Crusaders tangled with the Bishop Tonnos Titans in the 2013 regular-season finale of Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic senior high school football.
Going into the neutral-site contest at the Cardinal Newman field on Friday (Oct. 25), both teams had 0-5 records.
“We got the monkey off our back,” Tonnos coach John Kalenchuk said after the Titans defeated the Crusaders, 29-14. “We realize we still have a lot of work to do.”
Other results saw the Bishop Ryan Celtics upset the previously unbeaten St. Jean de Brebeuf Braves, 21-17, and the St. Thomas More Knights top Cathedral Gaels, 20-7.
That sets up the following quarter-final playoffs on Friday, Nov. 1: Seventh-place St. Mary (0-6) at second-place Cardinal Newman (5-1), sixth-place Bishop Tonnos (1-5) at third-place More (4-2) and fifth-place Bishop Ryan (3-3) at fourth-place Cathedral (3-3). First-place Brebeuf receives an opening-round bye.
“This year’s league is pretty incredible,” St. Mary’s coach Nick Lazar said. “There’s a lot of parity.”
It’s been a frustrating season for the Titans. Most of their losses have been by narrow margins. It started in Week 1, when they dropped a 20-17 decision to the Bishop Ryan Celtics in overtime. Other close ones followed – 13-12 and 6-4 against the Cathedral Gaels and the St. Thomas More Knights, respectively. Even the first-place St. Jean de Brebeuf Braves managed only a seven-point victory (28-21). Only the Cardinal Newman Cardinals had a little more breathing room (33-17).
“I’d like to congratulate my players for having the heart to play through a season of adversity,” Kalenchuk said. “A lot of games could have gone either way.
“These guys could have given up. They could have packed it in out of frustration or whatever the case may be. But they chose to come to practice and play each game the best they could.”
Tonnos veteran Matt Michalski, who split the signal-calling duties with Joe Radojewski, said the Titans were “unlucky” having been on the short end of the stick more than a few times. “As a team,” Michalski said, “we’re very happy with the first win. We needed this one going into the playoffs.
“Anyone can win (the championship). It’s more even than I’ve seen the league in three years of high school football.”
Tonnos got touchdowns runs of 15 yards by Marco Aref and one yard Kelvin Martinez. Through the air, the Titans also struck for a 20-yard major from Radojewski (he split time with Michalski) to wide receiver Cameron Wright. The other points for Tonnos came on a 15-yard field goal and three converts by Radojewski plus two safety touches.
The Crusaders defence made two separate goal-line stands to prevent any further Tonnos scoring.
Offensively, St. Mary rallied for a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns. Both were passes from quarterback Matt Sartori to wide receiver Avin Fernando, covering 22 and 20 yards. Sartori added a two-point conversion run.
A deep pass over the middle covering 35 yards to Liam Crawford set up the final score for St. Mary as time expired.
“We play tough all four quarters,” Lazar said. “We can move the ball and defend. And although the size of our team in terms of numbers isn’t as big as some of the other teams, we play with a lot of heart.”
Lazar says the Titans may have underachieved and could be a threat in the playoffs because of their solid running attack and the imposing size of some of their players.
Celtics upset the Braves, 21-17
At Brebeuf, the Celtics stunned the Braves by scoring 16 unanswered fourth-quarter points. After being held to a safety touch and a 37-yard field goal by Michael Fortino in the first half, the Celtics connected for touchdowns by Nicholas Boonstra (two-yard run) and Brandon Bettencourt (10-yard pass reception from quarterback Eric White). Mark Fournier added a two-point conversion grab and Fortino chipped in with two more singles.
Mackenzie Sajder hauled in two touchdown passes for Brebeuf from Justin DiPietro and Robbie Puddu booted a 12-yard field goal.