It’s a championship feast for Corpus Christi

A group of student/athletes from Hamilton’s Corpus Christi Catholic Elementary School gathered for a specially-organized Breakfast of Champions in the school cafeteria Thursday morning (Dec. 19) to celebrate their remarkable sporting achievements.

In a six-day period ending on Nov. 28, the Corpus Christi Cougars captured five championships. Three of those Catholic Youth Organization titles came in flag football – junior boys, junior girls, senior boys – while the others were senior girls’ basketball and 3-on-3 hockey.

Corpus Christi athletes Sara Pecora, Ethan Sims, Matthew Bridgwater, Eileen Tang, Ben McManus  (Photo: Corpus Christi)

Athletes Sara Pecora, Ethan Sims, Matthew Bridgwater, Eileen Tang, Ben McManus (Photo: Corpus Christi)

“That certainly was a good week for them,” George Stubbs, program co-ordinator for the CYO, said with a laugh.

When asked if one school had ever enjoyed so much success in such a short period of time, Stubbs said: “No. Not that I can remember. And I’ve been with the CYO for a few years now.”

There are 52 elementary schools in the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District system. Schools are divided according to population, with the Corpus Christi enrolment of 447 competing at the top level. Corpus Christi is located on Alderson Drive, just off Upper James Street near Rymal Road.

Corpus Christi began its streak of success by winning the junior girls’ flag football championship, 34-32, over Immaculate Heart of Mary. In that contest, the Cougars trailed by four points in the final seconds.

That was followed by a 19-6 junior boys’ flag football victory over St. Michael’s. The Cougars took an early lead and never looked back.

A few hours later, in the senior boys’ final – also at St. Thomas More Secondary School — Corpus Christi topped St. Therese of Lisieux, 33-12.

Ben McManus,13, (no relation to former Ticat Danny McManus) returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, his first of four major scores on the day. McManus was the senior team’s quarterback and also played for the Cougars hockey team that won the fast-paced Daryl Mahler Memorial 3-on-3 hockey tournament at the Quad Pad on Nov. 27. Corpus Christi edged St. Joachim 5-4 in a shootout to take top honours.

“For all of our teams to win was pretty exciting,” McManus said of the school’s five championships.

McManus, who also serves as student council president, says the football victory over St. Therese of Lisieux was challenging because of the weather conditions.

“It was really cold and hard to throw the ball,” he said. “Mostly we used our running game. At first, we thought they were going to be a tough team and that we wouldn’t do well against them.”

The Cougars tracked down their fifth championship on Nov. 28 when the senior girls’ basketball squad fought off a late rally to down Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, 21-18.

Melissa Branscombe, coach of junior boys’ football and a teacher at the school for 14 years, said advancing three football teams to the championship and have them all win was “unheard of.”

Arthur DiCroce, coach of senior boys’ football and hockey, has been a teacher at Corpus Christi for four years. Cougar football teams went undefeated during the season, overpowering all comers, with the closest margin of victory being 10 points. Said DiCroce: “We have some of the best athletes we’ve ever had.”

Twelve students formed the co-ed Corpus Christi hockey team which scored on a penalty shot to force the shootout.

“We went into the final with a goalie (Luca Sebastiano) who is younger and smaller than the average goalie,” Corpus Christi hockey coach Nathan Startek said. “He made big saves, though. He had to stop their player on the last play of the game in the shootout for us to win. And all three of our girls scored big goals for us.”

Lillian Scibetta, principal at Corpus Christi, says the school will turn 50 in 2015. She was there as a teacher and volleyball coach 30 years ago. She’s in her fifth year as principal.

“This was a rural school,” Scibetta said of Corpus Christi origins and before the addition was built about 14 years ago. “The kids came to us from farms. Some of them had chores to do before they came to school. Then the community grew and we grew into a larger school.”

Scibetta praised the coaches and the community for the Cougars recent string of championships.

“It’s once in a lifetime,” she said of the feat.