Celtics, Spartans, Lions post D10 football victories
GUELPH – The District 10 high school football storylines continued to play out on damp Eastview Park fields Friday following a week’s hiatus when the fields were just too damp to host games.
St. James Lions are establishing themselves as the clear-cut favourites to win the title.
Bishop Macdonell Celtics are showing competitiveness not seen from the squad since the school moved to the south end of the city.
Centennial Spartans are their usual competitive selves who use the regular season to get everything working in order.
Ross Royals prove themselves to be gamblers, especially with the game on the line.
Guelph CVI Green Gaels are rebuilding.
Lourdes Crusaders continue to make the most out of a small roster with gritty efforts.
This year the players have only one thing to play for, the league title. While going on to CWOSSA games and even further is usually described as icing on the cake or gravy (Who wants gravy on cake?), there’s just cake this year. No advancing beyond D10.
However, all six teams qualify for the playoffs which will start with quarterfinals with the top two finishers at the end of the regular season getting byes in that round. Each team’s regular season was to be four games.
It all brings back memories of 2013 when the league was seven strong – the Orangeville Bears departed after the 2015 season – and six teams qualified for the playoffs after a four-game regular season.
From 2016 on, the league’s been an all-Guelph affair with each team playing each other once during a round-robin regular season, giving each team five games. Then the top four went straight to the semifinals.
Teams are trying to round into shape after a late start to the season. Usually the regular season begins in the middle of September, but it was a start at the beginning of October this year.
“It made it a challenge, but the good thing is that it was with everybody,” Bishop Mac coach Justin Shoniker said. “Everyone is going through the same boat, we’re all in the same circumstance. It was a challenge and another challenge is that we have a lot of kids on this team who’ve never played football before. So the late start kind of helped as it gave us a little bit more time to practise, to prepare and get them ready to play so it all balanced out.”
Most important storyline, though, is that high school football is back.
“It’s kind of a surreal feeling sometimes,” said St. James coach Jeff Cummings. “You get the moment of that competitiveness that comes with high school football. You feel that, but it’s a little bit different this year in that you’re just grateful that we’re in this position where we’re playing football and that kids are doing something that they love. One thing I know is high school football is so important to these kids and the fact that it’s back is really good to see.”
“It’s awesome, especially for the kids,” Centennial coach Zach Pollari said. “You feel for the (Grade) 12s, 12-pluses that lost their season and we’re just trying to put a product together that gets the kids involved and gives them an outlet.
“Not having high school football, we missed the one year but it’s been two years outside of football with no city stuff. Kids aren’t used to it. They’re not used to dealing with adversity. They’re not used to playing football so the more experience we get, I think all the teams, it’s going to be better for everybody.”
Following Friday’s games, St. James is at 2-0 and Lourdes is at 0-2. The rest are at 1-1.
Bishop Macdonell 23 Guelph CVI 0
“It’s a much different group,” Bishop Mac coach Shoniker said. “I think this is just the first of numerous wins, but this is definitely a different team.”
The Celtics had most of their points by halftime as they led 13-0 at the end of the opening quarter and 20-0 at the break. Only points of the second half were on a fourth-quarter field goal.
“We need to clean some things up on offence,” coach Shoniker said. “I think our defence sort of carried us today. They played a great, great game. Offence, we had some drives we need to finish and it’s just finishing.”
Biggest difference for the Celtics is the size of their offensive line. They’re huge and aren’t about to be easily pushed around.
“They’re good athletes. They’re not just big, they’re actually good athletes which makes a huge difference,” coach Shoniker said. “It opens our playbook up and leads to a whole bunch of different things and it makes our offence obviously a lot more difficult to prepare for so we’re lucky with the kids that we have.”
Martina Vair kicked three field goals and she also converted both touchdowns. They were scored by Jackson Leshuk and Jack Shoniker.
Of course every team feels it has plenty to work on and the Celtics are no exception.
“Consistency, that’s the biggest thing and it’s little things,” coach Shoniker said. “It’s catching balls, not missing blocks. It’s just being consistent. We can do it, we just need to do it consistently.”
Centennial 27 Ross 26
“It definitely felt good,” Centennial coach Pollari said of the win. “We lost last week. It always feels good to win, but more importantly we were really focused on overcoming adversity and I was so proud of our players for doing that, aside from the win.”
The Spartans grabbed the victory in the close battle when the Royals went for a two-point convert on a passing play with 18.6 seconds to go, but came up short.
Centennial had led 6-0 at the end of the first quarter and the teams were tied 13-13 at halftime and 20-20 at the end of the third quarter.
The game is hoped to be indicative of the way most league games will go this year.
“It’s going to be an exciting season, a lot of parity it looks like,” Pollari said.
Mati Karzaih scored two touchdowns for the Spartans while Ethan Godinho had one and Mason Hill kicked two field goals and three converts.
Max Nixon scored two touchdowns and two converts for Ross while Sam Utting and Niko Jean Gaston each had one touchdown.
St. James 34 Lourdes 0
The Lions had all their points by halftime and then did some experimenting in the second half. They had led 14-0 at the end of the opening quarter.
“We’re happy that we’re 2-0, but I don’t think we’re happy with that half of football,” Cummings said. “We came out the way we wanted to and then we started trying some new things and we slowed our own momentum. So we’re happy with 2-0, but I think I would’ve liked to have left the game on a higher note, but it is what it is and we’ll build for next week.”
The Lions have a strong ground attack with Ben Cottrell getting the majority of the work, although Owen Ellis gets his fair share of the carries. With a comfortable lead, St. James tried to work on an aerial attack in the second half.
“We were trying to get the ball in the air to work on the passing game,” Cummings said. “In some ways, we had some success and in others, it slowed us down. While we had a few big plays, we also had some incompletions that slowed the momentum. That’s what we’re going to continue to grow with because we need to be a dual team. We’ve got some great receivers and a great quarterback, but the running back is what everybody is looking at right now.”
Cottrell struck for four touchdowns and a two-point convert this week while Ellis had three TDs Oct. 8 in an opening-game victory over Centennial.
“There’s no hiding it,” Cummings said. “We have a big, strong running back. Ben Cottrell is outstanding. He’s strong. He’s tough. And we have a good strong line and the fact of the matter is that we really don’t hide what we do. Everyone knows what we’re bringing to the table each week.”
Robert Munro had one touchdown Friday and Cameron Ross booted two converts.
- Guelph Sports Journal