A Cinderella team that started the 2013 high school football season with five consecutive losses will challenge the two-time defending champion Cardinal Newman Cardinals for the senior football league title on Friday (Nov. 15).
The Bishop Tonnos Titans earned a berth into the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic Athletic Association boys’ final with an 18-8 victory over the first-place St. Jean de Brebeuf Braves on Friday (Nov. 8). The other semi-final, at Cardinal Newman, saw the second-place Cardinals hang on for a 21-19 win over the Cathedral Gaels.
“The league has been very even all year,” Newman coach Anthony Macaluso said after he heard the score of the Tonnos-Brebeuf contest. “It surprises me, but it doesn’t shock me.
“Bishop Tonnos played pretty well everybody close. They’ve got good athletes. I coached a few of them in the summer (when the Hamilton Hurricanes won the OFC senior varsity league championship). It’s going to be a great game.”
Newman nearly got bounced from the playoffs by the Gaels. On the final play of the game, Cathedral quarterback Tyler Boucher’s two-point conversion pass attempt sailed over the head of his intended receiver. On the play immediately prior, however, Boucher made a brilliant deke to complete a 20-yard touchdown run. The Gaels had begun their drive with 28 seconds left and the ball on the Newman 50-yard line. Passes for first downs went to Adrian Tessarolo and Brad Byron. Boucher also scrambled for five yards.
“Tyler Boucher is a phenomenal player,” said Gaels coach Rob Ciofani. “He took the game into his hands at the end. We came close.”
Cathedal has made a habit of pulling out come-from-behind victories in the final minutes of their games with Boucher engineering the attack.
“We’re the Cardiac Kids, that’s what our coach calls us,” Boucher said. “Obviously, I didn’t like the way this one ended but Newman is a great team.”
Newman scored on its opening drive – a 16-yard touchdown run by Mitch Atlee. And by the end of the first quarter, thanks largely to a 56-yard scoring burst by Atlee, the Cardinals increased their lead to 15-0.
“They didn’t give up,” Macaluso said of the Gaels. “It shows that the game is never over until it’s over.
“We started getting some injury problems to our three running backs (Justin Connolly, Atlee and Matt Antonucci) and that threw off the rhythm of our offence.”
Cathedral got on the scoresheet in the second quarter when Raider Boyd, who also played linebacker, took a handoff and plowed one yard into the end zone. The visitors then used a 30-yard punt return by Justin Lloyd to set up an 11-yard touchdown run by Boucher.
Cathedral opted to try for two points at that stage but failed when the pass into tight coverage just over the goal line went in and out of the arms of Anthony Laughing.
Atlee then capped his three-touchdown afternoon when he scored from one-yard out. That gave the Cardinals a 21-13 lead late in the third quarter.
“Overall,” Macaluso said, “our defence played amazing. They allowed us to stay in the game when our offence kind of went to sleep.”
The Cathedral defence also stood out by blocking a punt for the second straight week. Stephon Smith was again involved in the block along with defensive end Tyler Champagne.
Ciofani called Boucher a “real trooper,” coming up to play three years ago when the Gaels went 0-6. Cathedral was 1-5 last season and 4-3 overall this season including their 15-13 quarter-final decision over the Bishop Ryan Celtics.