Football Celtics drop city foe to climb into fifth

Rob Massey, Guelph Sports Journal

GUELPH – The Bishop Macdonell Celtics completed their District 10 high schools football league season by doing something they hadn’t done in just over five years.

They beat a Guelph opponent Thursday, ending a 24-game regular-season losing streak against city opponents.

“A whole season of being so close every game, I’m so glad we’re here,” Bishop Mac coach Rob Hamilton said. “The kids really needed to understand how good they really are and this will be huge for us heading into the playoffs now.”

“They’re getting better every game,” Lourdes coach Joe Camilleri said of the Celtics. “The parity is good. Anybody can beat anybody.”

The Celtics hit for a touchdown on the first play of overtime to edge the Lourdes Crusaders 31-24 at Bishop Mac Thursday. While Bishop Mac had entered the game winless on the season, they had led in games against the Ross Royals, Centennial Spartans and Guelph CVI Green Gaels.

“The difference today was probably the fact that we had seen these guys before,” Hamilton said. “We played an exhibition game against them. We knew what we were up against, just like we do with most of our opponents, but today we were able to keep up, stay up and execute. That was a huge thing for us.”

Thursday’s win was the first over a Guelph opponent since the Celtics defeated Centennial 35-14 Oct. 18, 2012. That win over the Spartans was Bishop Mac’s second in as many games as they had defeated the Orangeville Bears 41-20 six days earlier in a 2-4-0 season.

The only other win for Bishop Mac since that 2012 win over Centennial was another 41-20 victory over Orangeville Oct. 22, 2015, during Orangeville’s last season in the league.

Thursday, Lourdes never trailed until Bishop Mac’s Nick Guardiero scored on a 35-yard play in the overtime shootout. After a scoreless first quarter, the teams were tied 14-14 at halftime, a score that remained after a scoreless third quarter.

“They just called the play and I went out and ran it,” Guardiero said of the winning score. “I couldn’t have done it without the O line blocking like that. They were outstanding in this game. Kaelan (Fraser), the quarterback, did an amazing job. That was an amazing ball.”

After catching the pass from Fraser, Guardiero scampered around the end and down the line on the west side of the field on his way to the end zone.

“I was just so happy,” he said of the feeling he had when he crossed the line for the TD.

For all of the current Celtics, the victory was their first over a Guelph opponent.

“This is an amazing win,” said Guardiero who is in his third season with Bishop Mac. “This year I feel like our team has grown and we’re actually playing like a team and we actually know what we’re doing this year. We’re really good this year.”

The Crusaders were disappointed with their performance following their 36-29 victory over Ross last week. Every game the Crusaders have played in the league this year has been decided by seven points or less.

“We took a step back this week,” Camilleri said. “We had a good game last week and we decided we were satisfied with one win last week. We decided that we had a win. We knew what was in front of us. If we won today, we had the potential to host a playoff game and we decided to take the week off. We had a horrible week of practice. We have about five guys on this team that would give their body for this team and we’ve got the rest that won’t. We can take this today as a lesson. Fortunately, it’s not the end of the season.”

The teams traded TDs early in the fourth quarter until Carlos Amaral booted a field goal for Lourdes with just over a minute to go in regulation time. However, Bishop Mac came right back, marched the ball down the field and tied it with a field goal by Guardiero with about five seconds to play.

“We left them with a little bit too much time,” Camilleri said. “A minute left in the game and they’ve got to go 70 yards and they do it in three plays. They wanted it and they did what they had to do.”

After Guardiero’s TD in OT, the Celtics had to stop the Crusaders from scoring on their possession. Lourdes did a get a first down to prolong the possession, but they couldn’t get another first down as Bishop Mac’s defence stood firm.

“They wanted it more than us today,” Camilleri said. “That team was hungry. They were enthusiastic and they were fired up all game. They wanted it more than us today and they took it from us.”

Guardiero accounted for all but a touchdown for the Celtics as he scored three TDs, a field goal and four converts. Luke Walton scored the other TD for Bishop Mac.

Amaral had a TD, FG and three converts for the Crusaders while Dalton O’Brien and Jack St. Hilaire each scored a touchdown.

The win was a timely one for the Celtics as it moved them over the Crusaders and into a fifth-place finish. While Bishop Mac and Lourdes finish with identical 1-4-0 records, the Celtics win the tiebreaker thanks to Thursday’s win.

Both will be visiting teams in next week’s quarter-finals. They’ll play either the St. James Lions, Ross Royals or Centennial. The pairings will be decided after the completion of the regular season Friday.

“We are a bit of an underdog in the playoffs just based on positioning, but I’m confident our kids are going to step up and play like they did today,” Hamilton said. “It should be good.”