When a group of Cardinal Newman high school football players arrived to examine the encased exhibits and trophies on display at Fortino’s Vanier House in downtown Hamilton Friday (Oct. 7), Ben Zwolak made the first comment.
“That one is going to be mine in two years,” Zwolak said with a smile while pointing to the Hec Crighton Trophy (awarded annually to the most outstanding university football player in Canada).
Zwolak and his Newman teammates were all wearing Cardinal jerseys for their appearance at Vanier headquarters in the Lister Block. And they were at that location to purchase a block of tickets for the 2016 Canadian Interuniversity Sport championship football game scheduled for Tim Hortons Field Nov. 26.
The Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board has partnered with the Vanier Cup organizing committee this year. The Board has a rich history of football excellence at the secondary level and flag football through the CYO at the elementary level.
“It’s 50 days to the Vanier Cup and we purchased 50 tickets to help support the event,” Newman vice principal and senior football team head coach Anthony Macaluso said.
“We want to do our part. We encourage other schools and businesses to get involved, too.”
The Newman squad stopped in for the morning ceremony while en route to its Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic Athletic Association game at St. Mary against the Crusaders.
“The support from the school board from the beginning has been fantastic,” said Kyrie Hillier, the CIS’s manager for the Vanier Cup. “Football is engrained in the city of Hamilton from youth to the pro level. Schools are taking this on and encouraging each other to be at the event to celebrate the spirit of football in Hamilton.”
Running back Nicholas Petermann of the Cardinals hopes to be watching his older brother, Daniel, play in next month’s Canadian university championship game at the home of the Tiger-Cats. Daniel, a graduate of Newman, is an outstanding receiver for the McMaster Marauders.
“That would be great,” Petermann said of the chance to be in the seats if the Marauders end up in the national spotlight.
“And it’s going to make us (Newman) work harder for our city championship. I want to play university football next year. I’m still all over the map with schools (where to attend).”
A member of last year’s Cardinals, lineman Brandon Eddie was also studying football history at Vanier House Friday. He currently plays for Ontario University Athletics’ Guelph Gryphons, who had a bye week before returning to action next week against the Laurier Golden Hawks.
“It’s great for the city,” Eddie said of the first of two consecutive Vanier Cup finals planned for Hamilton.
Eddie said the Gryphons still have a pretty good chance of making the OUA playoffs.
“And once you make the playoffs,” he said, “anything can happen. Hopefully, we can get there.”
According to Eddie, it’s a big jump from high school to the university ranks. “Obviously you have to learn a whole new playbook and the terminology is a lot different,” Eddie said. “It’s more adapting to the game speed. And getting in the weight room is a big thing. The guys are a lot bigger and stronger.”
Newman graduate Andrin Masotti was a member of the Marauders when they last won the Vanier Cup in 2011 in Vancouver.
Macaluso said there are 15 former Newman students currently playing with CIS schools.
Two of the individual CIS pieces of hardware at Vanier House also feature the names of Newman grads: Andre Arlain, St. Francis Xavier, Gorman Trophy, Rookie of the Year, (1994); Paul Frlan, St. Francis Xavier, Outstanding Defensive Player, (1995).
The 52nd Vanier Cup caps a week of football happenings. Other activities include gala award presentations, a combine, clinics and flag football.
Tickets are available online at Vaniercup.com.