Spartans, Royals advance to football semifinals
Rob Massey, Guelph Sports Journal
GUELPH – The Centennial Spartans and Ross Royals moved on to the District 10 high schools football league’s semifinals with slim quarter-final victories Friday.
The Spartans scored a touchdown with just less than a minute and a half to go to edge the Bishop Macdonell Celtics 16-15 at Alumni Stadium in the first quarter-final of the day.
“BM, they’re a good football team,” Centennial coach Zach Pollari said. “They really tested our limits today. We came away with a win, but it wasn’t pretty. I’ve got nothing but respect and admiration for that program and what coach (Rob) Hamilton has done there.”
The Royals scored two touchdowns about two minutes apart in the second quarter on their way to a 21-17 victory over the Lourdes Crusaders at Ross in the second quarter-final of the day.
“Our O line got a great push,” Ross quarterback Adam Shoemaker said. “They’re a great football team and it’s really hard to run against them, they’re great in-the-box guys. Our O line got a great push and I got enough time back there.”
“They beat us before and last time they drove the field on the last series and won,” Ross coach Tim Mathewson said. “”You’re worried about that happened again, but when we needed to run the ball we were able to do it and that was a good sign.”
Ross had finished the regular season in third place at 2-3 while Centennial was fourth, also at 2-3, Bishop Macdonell fifth at 1-4 and Lourdes sixth, also at 1-5. The ties were broken using results of games between the tied teams.
First-round byes were awarded to first-place Guelph CVI Green Gaels (5-0) and second-place St. James Lions (4-1).
The semifinals are set for Friday with both games to be played at Alumni Stadium.
Ross is to play St. James at 12 p.m. and Centennial is to play GCVI at 7 p.m.
Centennial 16 Bishop Macdonell 15
This one was close throughout. After a scoreless first quarter, the teams kicked a field goal apiece in the second quarter. Centennial went ahead 10-9 by the end of the third quarter, the Spartans blocking a convert attempt for the eventual difference in the game.
“We didn’t have the best week of practice,” Centennial quarterback Dakota Brown said. “I think we took them a little bit too lightly and we just needed to execute our plays better. It was more the mental part for us.”
Bishop Mac quarterback Caelen Fraser scored a TD on a seven-yard run in the fourth minute of the final quarter to push the Celtics ahead. However, their two-point convert attempt failed.
Centennial came back seven minutes later to regain the lead when Brown broke free for a 53-yard run to the end zone. Their two-point convert attempt also failed.
“We hadn’t ran the play all game yet,” he said. “It was an option. I read it, pulled it and I had a nice line and took it. My teammates made some nice blocks to open that up.”
The Celtics had another chance to take the win in the final minute as they were aided by a 15-yard penalty after the TD and a big run on their first play of the possession. However, an interception by the Spartans effectively ended the challenge.
“Some players stepped up and made plays,” Pollari said. “We weren’t necessarily in the best position we should have been in. The coaches here are doing a good job and our player made a play there and that’s what we need at the end of the day in a close game.”
Jackson Taylor scored Centennial’s other TD on a 13-yard run in the third quarter while Ben Lane kicked a 15-yard field goal in the second quarter and also kicked a convert on Taylor’s TD.
Nick Guardiero had the other points for Bishop Mac. He plunged into the end zone on a one-yard play late in the third quarter and he kicked a 27-yard field goal in the first quarter.
The Spartans now get ready to face the defending champion Gaels in their semifinal Friday.
“Staying disciplined on and off the field and we just need everybody at practice learning the game plan for the week and working to get better,” Pollari said.
“We’ve got to work on our practise and we’ve got to work on our urgency,” Brown said. “We have to practise better. We need to be urgent to the ball and we need to execute our plays. We can’t make any mental errors.”
Ross 21 Lourdes 17
This game was also close throughout. Lourdes led 2-0 at the end of the first quarter before Ross went ahead 14-9 by halftime and the third quarter was scoreless.
“It was a hard game and a lot of it was played in between the 30s,” Lourdes coach Joe Camilleri said. “They played hard. Il told the boys before the game ‘No regrets – there’s no regrets today.’ We left it all on the field and gave it all we could.”
The Royals gave themselves a little breathing room three minutes into the fourth quarter when Teo Jean-Gaston scored on a 10-yard run and Griffin Cunneyworth kicked the convert.
Lourdes got that one back six minutes later when Dalton O’Brien hauled in a 10-yard TD toss from quarterback Jack St. Hilaire and Ethan Bizjack caught a two-point convert pass from St. Hilaire to complete the scoring.
Shoemaker had scored the two second-quarter TDs for Ross. Both came on runs, the first one five yards in length and the second one a single yard. Cunneyworth converted both.
“One of them was a read-option kind of thing and I just went up the middle and took it in,” Shoemaker said. “The other one, QB sneak. It wasn’t that difficult. I just kind of fell in.”
Bizjack had the other touchdown for Lourdes as he caught a 10-yard pass from St. Hilaire for the score in the final minute of the first half. Carlos Amaral kicked the convert.
Ross had conceded a safety in the opening minute of the game to account for the rest of the scoring.
“We’ve got a nice core coming back next year,” Camilleri said. “We’ve got to learn from this. After last week (a loss to Bishop Mac on the final day of the regular season), we came back and had our best week of practice all year. St. James awaits the Royals in Friday’s semifinals.
“We’ve just got to make sure we’re grinding every day in practice and make sure we’re having a great day, great practices all around,” Shoemaker said. “(We have to) make sure our O line is getting a great push, make sure our defence is playing well, make sure I’m executing, make sure our whole offence is executing – everyone’s catching and everyone’s running.”
“We’ve got to work on our run game and we’ve got to work on being tougher – tougher than them and being more physical than they are,” Mathewson said. “Sometimes we looked a little scared when we were against them and we’ve got to step up and face that fear and being aggressive.”