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Gaels purposely miss field goal for D10 football title

Rob Massey, Guelph Sports Journal

GUELPH — The Guelph CVI Green Gaels used a rouge to win the District 10 football championship Friday night at Alumni Stadium.

The Gaels purposely missed a field-goal attempt on the last play of the championship game to give them a 38-37 win over the St. James Lions.

Ben Boddy booted a 36-yard field goal attempt way wide to his left into the St. James endzone and that was good for the winning point when the Lions failed to bring the ball out of their endzone.

“You hate to be the team to lose that game because they’ve got great kids on their team and we’ve got great kids on our team,” GCVI coach Blair Rickers said. “It was a fun night. I need a defibrillator to keep going.”

The point prevented St. James from completing a miraculous fourth-quarter comeback that saw them rally from a 23-point deficit with less than five minutes to go. It also prevented the Lions from winning their first ever D10 football title.

“That was a whole different way of losing,” St. James coach Jeff Cummings said. “That one was tough. It’s a tough rule. You know that they can do it and we knew that they were going to do it, but it’s hard to lose a game that way. No question.”

“That was a tremendous comeback by St. James,” Rickers said. “Hats off to those guys. We’ve lost games like that and I know how they feel right now, but they are a tremendous team.”

The Lions had finished first at the end of the regular season with a perfect 5-0 record while the Gaels were second at 4-1, the lone blemish a 15-13 opening-week loss to St. James Sept. 23.

The field-goal attempt came after the Gaels changed their mind on just punting the ball through the endzone for a point.

“Ben’s a great kicker and coach Pavs (Dan Pavlicik) suggested that,” Rickers said. “He said ‘Ben can drive it through’ and he was obviously right. We owe coach Pavlicik for the idea and Ben Boddy for great execution on that.”

“My coaches told me to kick it through to the corner,” Boddy said. “I didn’t understand what it was at first. They told me to miss the uprights and then I understood you get one point by it. I knew I could kick it through the endzone, so that was basically the point. It’s a lot easier to kick it through the endzone which is a bigger target than the uprights.”

Could he have made the field goal in the pressure-packed situation?

“Possibly yes,” he answered. “I think so.”

St. James showed early that they could come back from almost anything. The Gaels looked like they were going to take a 16-7 lead into the halftime break when Cory Pryce caught a touchdown pass from quarterback Simon Chaves with less than a second to go in the opening half.

Rather than take a knee and head straight into halftime, the Lions connected on a 75-yard scoring play with Vincent Garbuio credited with the touchdown. Nick Marquis kicked the convert.

The Gaels came out in the second half and regained the momentum when Chaves ran in for a pair of TDs to put GC up 30-14 after the third quarter. They appeared to have the game won when Brandon Ferigo broke a long run for GCVI’s final touchdown of the game midway through the fourth quarter, but the Lions weren’t counting themselves out.

Tanner Nelmes ran to his right and in for the TD that started the comeback for St. James. Quarterback Alex Durigon fought hard to get the ball over the goal-line on a two-point convert to cut the gap to 15 points.

Except at the start of the first and second halves when they’re mandatory, kickoffs are a rarity in D10 football. It’s the kicking team’s choice as to whether to kick off from their own 30-yard line or to let their opponents start their drive from their 35-yard line. If a team elects to kick, it’s a good bet it is going to try for an onside kick.

That was the case for the Lions as they booted a squibber right up the middle, running up in a group straight from their huddle to take the kick. It worked as St. James recovered the ball in the pile of football players.

A couple of plays later Reid Martin completed the drive by catching a Durigon pass for a TD. Marquis kicked the convert and the gap was at eight points.

The Lions elected to kick off again and they recovered another squibber around their own 45-yard line. A few plays later Martin caught another TD pass, then hauled in a two-point convert pass on a play similar to the TD to tie it up with less than a minute to go.

“That was an incredible comeback, but let’s face it. We put ourselves in a position that allowed GC to be able to win the game that way,” Cummings said. “We take nothing away from them. They beat us up for three quarters and they deserved to win the game. That’s the truth.”

“They never stopped,” Rickers said. “Those onside kicks killed me. I can’t believe it. You have to give our credit, too, because they had every opportunity to lie down there, but they never stopped fighting.”

Overtime looked likely when GC started the final drive of the game from its own 35. A run by Chaves and a long pass reception to Evan Brennan down the right sidelines set up the winning point.

Chaves scored two TDs for GCVI while Brennan, Pryce and Ferigo had one apiece. Boddy kicked a field goal, four converts and the winning rouge.

For St. James, Martin had three TDs and a two-point convert while Garbuio and Nelmes were credited with one touchdown apiece. Durigon had his two-point convert and Marquis kicked three converts.

“We came back and had our opportunity, but I guess it wasn’t in the cards today,” Cummings said.

The Gaels advance to play the Bluewater champion St. Mary’s Mustangs of Owen Sound in a CWOSSA semifinal in Owen Sound Thursday. Winner advances to the CWOSSA final at University Stadium in Waterloo Nov. 22 at 7:30 p.m.

The CWOSSA champion will play the Southern Ontario East champion from the Hamilton area in the Central Bowl Nov. 30 at 10 a.m. at Hamilton’s Tim Hortons Field.