St. James, GCVI follow collision course to D10 football final
Rob Massey, Guelph Sports Journal
GUELPH — The St. James Lions and Guelph CVI Green Gaels met in a tough struggle on the opening week of this year’s District 10 high school football season and they’ll meet in next week’s championship game to close the campaign.
The Lions and Gaels advanced to the final with victories Friday’s semifinal doubleheader at Alumni Stadium. First-place St. James took the opening match 34-6 over the fifth-place Lourdes Crusaders while the second-place Gaels downed the third-place Ross Royals 35-22 in the nightcap.
The Lions will get another shot at claiming their first D10 football title.
“That was the goal,” St. James coach Jeff Cummings said. “It’s always the goal. We’ve been talking about that for years.”
The Gaels have also been title starved recently as they’ll be after their first since 2006 and ninth in league history.
“This is awesome,” GCVI two-way player Brandon Ferigo said. “I’ve never been to D10 in my life. It’ll be a great experience.”
In the semifinal, Ferigo played running back for the first time and he ground out some of the tough yards and he also stuck his nose in to stop many Ross plays from his linebacker position.
“I was on the whole time,” he said. “I don’t think I ever came off the field.”
St. James and GCVI have been on a championship collision course since the Lions 15-13 Sept. 23 at St. James.
Both will spend this week’s dwindling after-school daylight hours preparing for the match.
“I don’t think we close well,” Cummings said. “We left points on the field again. Penalties are our enemy and we did that all the way through the third quarter. We took three touchdowns off the board today with penalties. You don’t win championships doing that. A lot of our focus this week will be on being smarter, trying to make better decisions and limit mental mistakes like that. It’s all cliche, but really it’s been our enemy. That’s been a theme, too. Our biggest enemy has always been ourselves. We eliminate that and we’ll have a good chance for success next week.”
“We’re playing another really good team,” GCVI coach Blair Rickers said. “I don’t think at this point you can change a lot. We are who we are and we’re going to just work on our fundamentals. We’ve got daylight savings on Saturday night so it’s going to be pretty dark at 5 O’clock so we’ll try to get a few things done.”
The championship game is slated for Friday at 7 p.m. at Alumni Stadium.
“We have to close the deal,” Cummings said. “I think it’s been a theme for this team. We look at each game like we need to close better. Next week we just have to get in the game and take the opportunities and close our deals. We’ve been talking about this being all business and that’s part of it. We need to close deals. The guys know. That’s been the philosophy all year and I think they’re ready to do it. It just comes down to actually completing it.”
“Everyone’s got to ball out,” Ferigo said. “We’ve got to do the same thing we did today, but 10 times better.”
“We’re looking forward to it. We know they’re an outstanding team with tons of great athletes,” Rickers said. “They’re just solid all around. As difficult as tonight was, we’ve got to forget about this, move on and just get ready for next week.”
St. James 34 Lourdes 6
The Lions had a tough match with the Crusaders during the regular season and didn’t want a repeat performance in the playoffs.
“We came out and delivered the first punch like we wanted to,” Cummings said. “We wanted to come out really strong and take them right out of the game immediately and I think we did that. We didn’t want that team to hang around. Last time we let them hang around and to be honest with you, they could have beaten us. We thought they were dangerous and we played them the whole game like they were dangerous. We just wanted to make sure they didn’t have an opportunity to be in the game past the second quarter.”
St. James led 8-0 at the end of the first quarter, 14-0 at halftime and 26-0 after the third quarter.
Running back Tanner Nelmes scored three TDs for the Lions while Jakob Tomas and Vincent Garbuio scored one apiece. Reid Martin scored a two-point convert and St. James also had a safety.
Kyle Bouwman returned an interception for a touchdown for Lourdes.
Guelph CVI 35 Ross 22
The Gaels came out red hot and quickly built a lead. They were up 14-0 after the first quarter and 21-2 at halftime and 28-9 after the third quarter.
“It was a tough game,” Rickers said. “We got some very fortunate breaks at the beginning of the second half and we were able to sneak through. We were very fortunate.”
The never-say-die Royals outscored the Gaels in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t pull even.
“That’s a really good team we played,” Rickers said. “They executed exceptionally well.”
Ferigo switched to running back from the offensive line and he got the calls to carry the ball up the gut, which gave quarterback Simon Chaves room to scamper around the ends whenever his number got called.
“We played a hell of a game,” Ferigo said of GC’s offensive unit. “The O line, rushing upfield it was great. They made huge blocks and gave me plenty of opportunities to cut upfield. They were awesome.
“Defensively we played pretty good. Our coverage was a little weak sometimes, but we’re definitely going to focus on that this week at practice and get better at every aspect.”
While Ferigo didn’t score, he helped give Chaves room to find the Ross endzone three times while Evan Brennan and Lachlun Frey had one apiece. Ben Boddy converted all five touchdowns.
Elijah Jimenez scored two touchdowns for Ross while Josh Gordon had one. Jordan Bauer converted two TDs and the Royals also scored a safety.