Two stalwart players who regularly line up side-by-side on the defensive line for the St. Jean de Brebeuf Braves showed on Friday (Sept. 19) that they can also contribute to the team’s scoring.
Tackle Christian Parris and end Jesse Damaia accounted for the first two touchdowns of the game, sparking Brebeuf to a 27-16 senior high school football victory over the visiting Cathedral Gaels. It was the first-ever Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic Athletic Association game held on the new artificial turf field at the Acadia Drive school.
With the result, Brebeuf improved its record to 1-1. Cathedral fell to 0-2.
Parris, one of the biggest players in the seven-team league at 6-foot-3, 290 pounds, opened the scoring in the second quarter. Asked to join the offensive backfield for one play, he took a handoff and plowed straight ahead for a two-yard TD. It was set up three plays earlier by Dezain Brooks’ fumble recovery at the Gaels’ 16-yard line.
“The short-yard plunge was just something we put in to give us a little more size,” said Braves’ coach Anthony Alfano. “We’re not very big, so it gave us more of a push.
“It’s nice to give guys something to look forward to.”
Damaia’s major resulted from a high snap over the head of Cathedral punter Liam Barry. When Barry eventually tried to boot the ball, it was blocked and pounced on in the end zone by Damaia.
“I’ve never scored a touchdown before,” said Damaia, whose efforts thrilled a full house of Brebeuf fans. “I’ve played defence my whole career. This is my third year. I started in Grade 10.
“I just saw the opening and drove through the gap. After I blocked it, the ball was on the ground wide open. So I really didn’t have to scramble for it.”
Brebeuf quarterback Justin DiPietro also connected with slotback Mackenzie Sajder for a pair of touchdowns. Those quick tosses covered nine and 18 yards.
The Gaels, who trailed 21-2 at the half, answered with two touchdown passes from quarterback Mason Brown to Stephan Smith. Brebeuf conceded a safety touch and wide receiver Tristan Guisto hauled in a two-point conversion reception for the other Cathedral points.
“We started off on the wrong foot and they capitalized,” said Cathedral coach Rob Ciofani. “We can’t give stuff away with mistakes like that. They’re a good team.”
The Brebeuf coach praised the overall performance of Damaia.
“Jesse played great all day,” Alfano said. “He had constant pressure at defensive end. To block a punt and have your wits about you to be able to get in there and recover the ball as well … it was a big play for us.”
Smith, a veteran two-way player at linebacker and running back for Cathedral, capped the scoring with six seconds remaining on the clock from the Brebeuf 11-yard line.
“We snuck him out of the backfield right down the seam,” Ciofani said of hard-running Smith’s first major score from 30 yards. “We had some blockers down field. He took it (Brown’s pass) and did the rest himself. He was determined to score and he did.”
In other HWCAA senior football action, the defending champion Cardinal Newman Cardinals made their 2014 debut by defeating the St. Mary Crusaders, 44-7. A highlight for Newman was a 70-yard punt return for a touchdown by Mark Bradica.
Elsewhere, the visiting Bishop Ryan Celtics rallied with 26 unanswered points to down the Bishop Tonnos Titans, 26-17. It was BR’s second-straight win, while Tonnos slipped to 1-1.
Receiver Michael Spadafora led the Celtics with three touchdown receptions from quarterback Marc Fournier. Nic Boonstra also contributed to the victory with a touchdown on an interception return.
“We knew we were capable of playing better,” coach John Fleming said of his team which trailed 17-0 entering the fourth quarter. “The kids didn’t give up and there was a momentum swing.”