Guelph CVI, St. James to get football final rematch
Rob Massey, Guelph Sports Journal
GUELPH – The Guelph CVI Green Gaels and St. James Lions are to meet in the District 10 high schools football final for the second consecutive year after both posted semifinal victories at Alumni Stadium Friday.
The semifinals were certainly two different types of game as the Lions, with the wind at their backs, scored three touchdowns in the first quarter on their way to a 44-0 victory over the Ross Royals in the afternoon game and the Gaels gutted out a 13-10 win over the Centennial Spartans.
“That is the best performance I’ve ever seen a St. James team make,” Lions coach Jeff Cummings said. “That was it.”
“We played well, they played well,” GCVI coach Blair Rickers said. “It was just one of those games where both teams competed very hard.”
The final is to be played Friday, likely at Alumni Stadium at 7 p.m.
The Gaels won last year’s final by a single point with a rouge on the final play of the game.
St. James has erased that game from their memories.
“To be honest with you, the way I approached last year was that I removed it from our brains,” Cummings said. “We weren’t talking about it. We weren’t thinking about it. We weren’t going to remember it. We were moving on and we were moving forward and that’s the approach with the kids because it’s a totally different team.
“This is a team filled with Grade 10s and 11s. Some of them really had no connection with what happened in that game so there really is no reason to try to fire them up over who we could be playing or potentially seeing GC or getting back to the final. We just weren’t going to bring that into their mindset at all.”
Both the Lions and Gaels entered the semifinals after getting byes in the quarter-finals by finishing in the top two spots, GCVI in first at 5-0 and St. James second at 4-1.
“We had a lot of fun on the week off,” Cummings said. “We practised that week with the intention of getting healthy, cleaning up some mistakes that we continually make and we wanted to make a statement in our first game. We did some new things, changed some things and we evolved, just kept growing which has been the message all year – keep growing.”
“It’s a totally different team we face next week,” Rickers said. “They have a tremendous running attack and they have an awesome defence that we’re going to have to prepare for. It’ll be a tremendous amount of work, but we’re looking forward to it.”
St. James 44 Ross 0
The Lions used their running attack to run over the Royals.
St. James was up 25-0 at the end of the first quarter, 31-0 at halftime and 37-0 after the third quarter.
“We have never come out and entered a game scoring (25) points in the first quarter against anyone,” Cummings said. “It was nice to come out in a semifinal game and do that so we could spend the rest of the game protecting that lead.”
The Lions did have a wind advantage in the first quarter and they used it for long passing plays that set up the touchdowns.
“We were hoping to have the wind,” Cummings said. “We didn’t care if we had the ball, but we were hoping to have the wind and put them on their back. They have a good quarterback and a high-powered offence. Even though they put zero on the board, they can put 50 on you. Things just turned on them and it spiraled out of control a bit, but the tables could have been turned. They have a great, athletic quarterback and good receivers so you just never know what’s going to happen in a semifinal game.”
Gabe Valedis (two-yard run), Jose Martirena (30-yard catch of Alex Baseggio pass) and Tanner Nelmes (one-yard run) scored the first-quarter TDs for the Lions.
Nelmes added two more TDs as he scored on a five-yard run in the second quarter and on a one-yard run in the third quarter.
Devon Proctor ran in for the final TD in the fourth quarter.
Valedis scored a pair of two-point converts while Martirena scored one and Piotr Czachor kicked a convert.
Guelph CVI 13 Centennial 10
The Spartans proved to be a stubborn bunch who just wouldn’t fold while Ben Boddy, who kicked the championship-winning rouge last year, scored all of the points for the Gaels.
“They’re a tremendous team. They have some amazing players and they’re exceptionally well-coached. It was a chore,” GCVI coach Blair Rickers said. “I think coach Pat (defensive coordinator Pat Nield) did a tremendous job with our defence this week trying to contain 15 (Dakota Brown) and 23 (Jackson Taylor) and 1 (Drake Davis) and 3 (Daniel Brown). That’s what we went with at practice this week. We just kept pointing guys out ‘You’re No. 3. You’re No. 1. We just kept running plays trying to contain them and the guys did a great job.”
The Gaels also had to contend with a hot Spartans defence.
“Their defence played unbelievable well,” Rickers said. “It went right down to the very end and we’re very fortunate because they’re hot. The last half of the season, they were certainly one of the best teams in the league. You can’t say enough about their performance.”
GCVI led 3-0 at the end of the first quarter on a field goal by Boddy.
Centennial’s Ben Lane tied it with a field goal midway through the second quarter before Boddy added a touchdown and kicked a convert in the final minute of the half to put the Gaels ahead again.
After a scoreless third quarter, Boddy kicked a 22-yard field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter to extend GCVI’s lead to 10 points.
The Spartans closed the gap to the final three-point difference when Jackson Taylor hauled in a pass from quarterback Dakota Brown and scampered into the end zone on a 24-yard play. Lane added the convert.
The Gaels, with Peyton Garvin taking over the QB duties from an ill Cory Pryce in the second quarter, guided GCVI to the win.
“Peyton came in with Cory under the weather and he did a tremendous job,” Rickers said. “His throws were right on the money.”
“I don’t even know what to say,” Garvin said. “I just went in there and balled out.
I just knew I had to try to keep control of my nerves once I got out there.”
Garvin felt that the Gaels playing as a team and staying positive were two of the keys of the win. GCVI also used its running game to churn up the yardage with Brandon Ferigo and Boddy getting most of the carries.
“Our running game is our strength,” Garvin said. “I don’t think anyone in the region can stop us with our running game. It’s pretty elite.”
GCVI also made several changes on the field both before and during the game.
“We moved some players around,” Rickers said. “It wasn’t necessarily back-up players, but people playing in different positions. They give you some very different looks and they provide some real challenges so we had to put some people in some different spots to try to contain them and those guys came through.”