It was a frustrating day on offence for the St. Thomas More Knights.
The driving wind and rain, combined with a solid defensive effort by the visiting Assumption Crusaders of Burlington, made life miserable for the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic Athletic Association senior high school football champions Monday (Nov. 24).
The Halton representatives intercepted six passes – four by corner Matt Walker – en route to an 18-2 victory at a Golden Horseshoe Athletic Conference playoff game. In the other GHAC playoff, Oakville’s Holy Trinity Titans rallied from a five-point deficit in the final minute of the first half to defeat the visiting Cardinal Newman Cardinals, 42-17.
Burlington Assumption and Holy Trinity advance to Ontario high school bowl games this week at McMaster University.
“Defensively, we played well,” said Knights’ safety/wide receiver, Billy Olds. “But offensively, we couldn’t move the ball.”
The longest play of the afternoon on offence for More – 50 yards — came late in the fourth quarter on a long bomb from quarterback Nicolas Feria to Olds. However, that play was nullified by a penalty.
And Olds could only shake his head in disbelief on the next play when he hauled in a 25-yard pass, but it was ruled that he came down out of bounds.
“I think the vibe we had was that our team was OK with just winning the (Hamilton-Catholic league) championship,” Olds said. “We didn’t have the intensity today. We couldn’t get it together. We didn’t have any momentum. We lacked urgency.”
The best opportunity to score for More came in the final quarter after a couple of hard runs by Osayi Iginuan gained a first down to the Assumption seven-yard line. At that point, however, Walker went to work, picking off a pass in the end zone.
“When it was 18-2, we were driving,” Olds said. “If we could have punched that in and got the two points, it would have been a one-possession game.”
The Knights got on the scoreboard first, courtesy of a conceded safety touch.
A high snap over the punter’s head in the end zone then cost More a safety touch later in the opening quarter.
Running back Jordan Lyons, the MVP of Canada’s U-17 team at the International Bowl earlier this year, scored Assumption’s first touchdown on a two-yard run. He also set up the score with a winding 33-yard carry.
The lone TD of the second half was a one-yard quarterback sneak by Adam VanKooten. The big play to set up that score was a deflected pass for 15 yards that was hauled in by Matt Orr (plus a major penalty against More than moved the ball to the one-yard line).
“They have a good (defensive) line,” Olds said. “When our running game wasn’t able to get going, we tried to force the pass. Especially with the wind, it was tough.”
Assumption coach Ivan Yurgan, whose squad recently lost to the Holy Trinity Titans for the Halton Tier I title, said he was “cautiously confident” entering the contest against More.
“It was back and forth,” Yurgan said. “Both teams like to run. The weather wasn’t conducive to throwing the ball. Field position is what really won it for us. We probably spent more time in their end of the field than they did in ours.”
According to Yurgan, Assumption studied Iginuan on game film and came to the conclusion that he likes to run between the tackles and gang tackling would be a necessity.
“One guy is not going to bring that kid down,” the veteran Crusaders’ coach said.
Knights’ coach Claudio Silvestri said the nasty weather can’t be used as an excuse. “They were hungrier than we were. Our defence has been outstanding all year. They gave us a chance to win again today.”
Silvestri praised Olds, a fifth-year two-way player who has verbally agreed to attend McMaster University next fall. Said Silvestri: “Billy is a huge part of our offence. He’s an outstanding receiver. Unfortunately, with the way the wind was today, we couldn’t give him the ball as much as we wanted to.
“He has the potential to do bigger and better things down the line. We wish him all the best. I think he’ll be a great OUA receiver.”
For the past two summers, Olds has played for the undefeated Ontario varsity league champion Hamilton Hurricanes.