20211106 HIFOOT 04

Bishop Mac advances following tough quarterfinal win

GUELPH – The Bishop Macdonell Celtics advanced into the District 10 high school football semifinals for the first time since 2018 with a 13-0 victory over the Guelph CVI Green Gaels in the only quarterfinal match played Friday at the Guelph Lake Sports Fields.

The defending champion Ross Royals also moved on, but they didn’t have to play as the low-on-manpower Lourdes Crusaders forfeited their quarterfinal rather than put their players in a less than ideal situation.

While it has been three years since the Celtics got into the semifinals, the gap isn’t that long in terms of D10 seasons as the 2020 campaign fell victim to the coronavirus pandemic.

And, as was the case in 2018, the Celtics are to face the St. James Lions in the semifinals set for next Friday at Guelph Lake Sports Fields.

While it was a shutout victory for the Celtics Friday, the match was a close, tough-fought one throughout. The teams had met in a bruising affair during Week 2, won 23-0 by the Celtics.

“We knew last time our defence played really well, but our offence struggled,” Bishop Mac coach Justin Shoniker said. “Their defence played well last time we played so we knew coming in our offence would have a tough day and it proved to be true, but we kept working, we kept grinding and we pulled it out.”

The Celtics did learn things in the first meeting that they worked on during practice in the run-up to the quarterfinal match.

“Mostly just to finish,” coach Shoniker said. “Last time when we played them it seemed like a lot of our blocking, we blocked to contact and stop, but they have a lot of great athletes over there so they’d get off the blocks and make tackles. This week we really worked on just trying to finish — finish the blocks, finish the plays. To be honest, they did a great job for three quarters stopping us. It took us until the fourth quarter by the time we were able to start moving the ball.”

A field goal in the opening quarter by Martina Vair stood as the only points of the game until Stephan Funkenhauser hauled in short touchdown pass from Jackson Malone late in the third quarter. Vair converted that and added another field goal in the final quarter.

The Celtics will prepare in an attempt to avoid a similar fate as their last semifinal appearance when they were beaten 27-7 by St. James. The Lions, though, were the only undefeated team of the quick regular season as they were a perfect 3-0 and they outscored their opponents 94-15 including a 32-0 victory over Bishop Mac in what turned out to be Week 3.

“As far as we’re concerned, it’s truly a David-versus-Goliath type scenario and just like in the story, David didn’t back down and neither will we,” coach Shoniker said.

And what will Bishop Mac work on at practice this week?

“Consistency, again,” coach Shoniker said. “The biggest issue of our season is just remaining consistent and finishing. We have to finish and we have to be confident in what we’re doing. That’s another thing. Sometimes if we’re not confident, we get confused and that’s when we shut down. We (need to be) confident in what we’re doing and play with no fear.”

As is likely the case with every coach in the league, Shoniker has been pleased in the progress his players, especially the rookies, have made this season. After all there was no D10 football last year.

“I’m surprised that we have this amount of kids who don’t have much football experience who are playing,” coach Shoniker said. “A lot of the kids who contributed tonight like (lineman) Philip Oates has never played football before and he was a star out there tonight. He’s a Grade 10 kid and he put the team on his back and made huge plays when we needed it. I don’t use the word surprising, it’s more satisfying, I guess, because I know he has it in him. It’s just awesome to actually see it.”

Next Friday’s semifinals have Bishop Mac playing St. James at 2:30 p.m. and Ross playing the Centennial Spartans at 5 p.m. Games are scheduled to be played at Eastview Park, but rain in the forecast could change that.

 

  • Guelph Sports Journal