Lions, Royals set up championship-game rematch
GUELPH – The St. James Lions and Ross Royals are to meet to decide the District 10 high school football championship for the second consecutive season.
The Royals will enter the final as the defending champions, having defeated the Lions in the 2019 title game. The 2020 season was cancelled due to the pandemic.
Both advanced to the rematch with victories in Friday’s semifinal doubleheader at Guelph Lake Sports Fields, the Lions defeating the Bishop Macdonell Celtics 25-16 in the first game and the Royals beating the Centennial Spartans 26-6 in the nightcap.
Championship game is to go Friday at 2 p.m. at a location yet to be decided, although it’ll likely be at Guelph Lake Sports Fields where the previous playoff games this season have been held.
St. James 25 Bishop Macdonell 16
The Lions were never headed, but the Celtics certainly gave them a scare.
“It was closer than I figured, but I’ve been around the town for a little while — this is my 23rd year of coaching — and I know that anything can happen in a semifinal game,” St. James coach Jeff Cummings.
A first-quarter touchdown for the Lions stood as the only score of the first half. The Lions added two more TDs in the third quarter and had another one in the final quarter, but Bishop Mac closed the gap with two late touchdowns.
“They were prepared for a couple of things,” Cummings said. “They knew how to stop a jet, they knew how to stop Ben (Cottrell) on the edge and we knew what to adjust to. We have things in for that and we started stopping ourselves, too. So you get in a game with a team and then things can happen.”
The Lions led 6-0 at halftime and stretched that lead to 19-3 by the end of the third quarter.
Running back Cottrell scored two TDs for St. James while Sam Barry and Owen Ellis also scored touchdowns. Cameron Ross added a convert.
Martina Vair kicked a 35-yard field goal in the third quarter for Bishop Mac and she also added a convert in the fourth quarter. Stephan Funkenhauser and Jackson Malone scored the final-quarter TDs.
While the game might have been closer than they would have liked, the Lions did feel a close match right before the final was better than a blowout win.
“Way better,” Cummings said after having his post-game chat with his team. “We just talked about that. You have to have a bit of a scare during a season if you want to proceed through. If you’d asked me if it was going to happen this week, I thought it was a strong possibility that this was going to be a tight game. I think they have some dangerous weapons. I think that they’ve got some big strong linemen that can counter us and that’s exactly what happened. When we got in the game with them, they brought it.”
For the Lions, looking ahead to the championship tilt, it’s more about removing things from their game than adding things.
“It’s the same story for us,” Cummings said. “Every week we harp on guys for mistakes that continue to hurt ourselves. I think we got two touchdowns called back on offside plays and those are things that we can’t keep doing. We started the game with two big penalties that were just excitable type plays. Those don’t help you win games either.”
Ross 26 Centennial 6
“It feels a little like 2019 deja vu with (Centennial) coming in second and us in third and meeting St. James again in the final,” Ross coach Tim Mathewson said. “We’re excited. We’ve asked our guys to build every week and get better and I think we’re pretty good. We’ve got a lot of momentum behind us now.”
The Royals hit early, scoring two touchdowns in the first two minutes of the match. They scored a TD on their first play from scrimmage, then returned an interception for the other early score.
“It was an amazing start,” Mathewson said. “It certainly was much better than anything we could have dreamed of.”
Those early TDs helped stake Ross to a 14-6 lead at the end of the first quarter and they kept adding to the lead a little bit at a time. The Royals were up 17-6 at halftime and had completed their scoring by the end of the third quarter.
Max Nixon had a bit of everything scoring wise for Ross as he scored the opening touchdown and kicked a field goal and three converts. Joel Betts returned the interception for the other early TD while Sam Utting scored the third-quarter touchdown and the Royals also recorded a safety.
Mati Karzaih had the touchdown for Centennial.
In the few practices before the final, the Royals know what will be the focus of their attention.
“It’s just executing when we need to,” Mathewson said. “It was a little sloppy, especially in our run game at times. We certainly had some dropped balls, which are not good. It was a good performance, but I think we can still be better so we’re going to try to get another gear going for next week.”
- Guelph Sports Journal