There’s a new head football coach at Cardinal Newman Catholic Secondary School this season but the results are the same as usual.
With Gord Chiarot stepping down after leading the team to consecutive Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic Athletic Association senior championships in 2011 and ’12, Anthony Macaluso took over the coaching reins last August. His Cardinals made it three straight league titles on Friday (Nov. 15) with a hard-fought 15-9 victory over the Bishop Tonnos Titans at McMaster’s Ron Joyce Stadium.
Newman advances to the Golden Horseshoe Athletic Conference championship on Thursday (Nov. 21) at 2 p.m. against Burlington’s Assumption Crusaders. It’s yet to be determined whether that contest will be played at Mac or at Newman.
“I’m so proud to be the coach of this team,” Macaluso said seconds after having the contents of the water bucket poured on his head by a couple of exuberant Cardinal players. “We’ve had such a good program in place. I had pretty big shoes to fill coming off coach Chiarot winning two championships in a row.
“These guys just know how to win. It’s easy to coach guys who want to win and are ready to work.”
Macaluso previously coached Newman junior teams for eight years. He also was an assistant with the undefeated Hamilton Hurricanes, 2013 champions of the Ontario Football Conference summer varsity league.
The Cardinals, who finished the regular season in second place, opened the playoffs with 41-15 and 21-19 victories over the St. Mary Crusaders and the Cathedral Gaels, respectively. Sixth-place Tonnos began the schedule with five straight losses before scoring upset victories over the St. Thomas More Knights (17-12) and the first-place St. Jean de Brebeuf Braves (18-8).
“This was such an evenly-played game,” Macaluso said.
In the battle for the league’s T. Eaton Trophy, the Titans got on the scoreboard first. Wide receiver Cameron Wright gathered in quarterback Mathew Michalski’s quick hitch pass near the line of scrimmage and eluded defenders to score a 43-yard touchdown late in the first quarter. The extra point attempt was then blocked by Marcus DiLoreto of the Cardinals who would later be in on many more key plays.
With 42 seconds left before half time, however, Newman struck for a 74-yard pass-and-run touchdown over the middle from quarterback Matthew Metcalfe to wide receiver Clark Adams. DiLoreto added the convert.
“Clark had a drop earlier before that big catch and run,” Macaluso said. “We told him ‘you’re going to get a play. You’ve got to make it.’ And, boy, did he ever make it.”
Mid way through the third quarter, a 34-yard gain on a pass reception by Munashe Muneka plus an unnecessary roughness penalty against Tonnos moved the ball deep into Titans territory. Two plays later, Metcalfe tossed a 15-yard look-in pass to DiLoreto for the major score. DiLoreto converted.
“It was designed to go to the wide receiver but he was covered,” slotback/safety/kicker DiLoreto said of his TD grab. “That opened it up for me. It was an easy walk into the end zone.”
Tonnos threatened in the fourth quarter after recovering a fumble. The Titans put together runs of 12, 16 and five yards by Marco Aref, Darrell Skuse and Kelvin Martinez. The drive stalled, however, when Skuse was tackled for a loss of three yards by DiLoreto. Tonnos, at that point, settled for an 18-yard field goal by Joe Radojewski with 6:03 remaining.
“We had the momentum,” Tonnos coach John Kalenchuk said. “We were driving. I thought we had a shot.”
DiLoreto, who also intercepted a pass in the third quarter, completed the scoring with a point from a wide 38-yard field goal with 13.5 seconds left.
“He (DiLoreto) is tremendous player and is one of our captains,” Metcalfe said. “It’s great to have him out there. He’s our everything … great receiver, great cover guy, great special teams player.”
Both teams ended up with 12 first downs. Newman gained 72 yards rushing and 205 yards through the air, compared to 61 yards along the ground and 185 passing for Tonnos. The leading ground gainer was Newman’s Mitchell Atlee (9 for 39), while the top receiver was Wright (4 for 97).
“We played well,” said Kalenchuk. “Just not well enough.”
The Tonnos coach praised the effort of his players and coaching staff this season for rebounding from an 0-5 start.
“They never gave up,” Kalenchuk said. “I’m sure there were multiple chances when the season could have become a wash because of the adversity we were facing. They dug down deep and did not only themselves, but their families and school, proud. A play here or a play there and we might have been in overtime. Congratulations to Newman. They earned the win.”
Said Metcalfe: “We beat a very talented team. They had a great playoff run.”
Newman and Assumption played each other in preseason this year. The Crusaders won the Halton title with a 9-0 victory earlier in the week over the Corpus Christi Longhorns.
Elsewhere, in a junior semi-final, the St. Thomas More Knights edged the visiting Cathedral Gaels 11-8. The Knights got a 22-yard touchdown run by Jacob Baker along with a convert, single and 37-yard field goal by Tevin Matuga. Cathedral scored all of its points in the fourth quarter on a one-yard run by Mason Brown and a conceded safety touch.
The HWCAA junior final is Friday (Nov. 22) at 1 p.m. at Ron Joyce Stadium. More takes on the winner of Bishop Tonnos vs. Newman semi-final.