Lions will finish first, D10 playoff participants decided
Rob Massey, Guelph Sports Journal
GUELPH – With one week to go in the District 10 high school football league’s regular season, the only thing left to decide in which order in the standings the Bishop Macdonell Celtics and Guelph CVI Green Gaels will finish.
One will be third and the other fourth and that will be decided next Friday when the two meet at 4 p.m. at Alumni Stadium.
Friday, the St. James Lions clinched a first-place finish with a 41-27 victory over the Centennial Spartans and the playoff participants were decided when the GCVI Green Gaels edged the Lourdes Crusaders 17-16. That loss knocked Lourdes out of playoff contention.
St. James leads the league at 4-0-0 while Centennial is second at 3-1-0 and the Spartans hold the tie-breaker over both Bishop Mac and GCVI who are both at 2-2-0. Lourdes is at 1-3-0 and will lose a tie-breaker with either Bishop Mac or GCVI and the Ross Royals trail at 0-4-0.
League play is to conclude with a tripleheader at Alumni Stadium Friday. Ross is to play Centennial at 12 p.m., GCVI and Bishop Mac are to tangle at 4 p.m. and Lourdes and St. James are to battle at 7 p.m.
Alumni Stadium is to host the semifinals Oct. 26, the championship game Nov. 2, a CWOSSA quarter-final Nov. 9 and potentially a CWOSSA semifinal Nov. 15.
St. James 41 Centennial 27
In a game worthy of deciding first place, the Lions scored a pair of fourth-quarter TDs to claim the victory.
“That was exactly what we expected,” St. James coach Jeff Cummings said. “It was a great game and a lot of fun to be a part of. They’re exactly who we thought they were. They’re an excellent team.”
“They’re a really good team,” Centennial coach Zach Pollari said. “it was a really close game until the last five minutes. At the end of the day they’ve got a really good running back (Tanner Nelmes) and O line and they can just grind out the clock.”
St. James was ahead 14-3 at the end of the first quarter and 14-13 at halftime and the teams were knotted 27-27 at the end of the third quarter.
“I just said that if we persisted through some of our mistakes and we stayed calm and collected, things were going to go our way,” Cummings said. “We did have a bit of a feeling that the last team that scored might win. Even to the last second I thought we had to put some points on the board because they can score like lightning.”
Running back Tanner Nelmes had three touchdowns for the Lions while Pawel Syzmanski, a linebacker who’s taken on receiver duties on offence, had his first two offensive TDs in D10 play.
“Last year I played once during our first game,” Syzmanski said of his time at receiver. “Today was a new game, try new things getting ready for playoffs using all of our assets.”
And the feeling of scoring the TDs.
“It feels pretty good,” he said. “Help out the team a little bit and get some offence on the board and then come out on defence and make some big stops.”
Syzmanski was a factor on defence, too, especially with a pair of fourth-quarter sacks that put the Spartans in poor field position.
“It feels good coming out and shutting them down so they couldn’t score any points and we could come out with this W,” Syzmanski said. “Now it’s just on to the next game.”
Jose Martirena had the other TD for St. James while Peter Czachor kicked three converts and Jakob Tomas had a two-point convert.
QB Daniel Brown had two touchdowns for Centennial while Hadi El-Miari had one and Ben Lane kicked a field goal and four converts. St. James also conceded a safety.
While first place means nothing in terms of home-field advantage as every D10 playoff game is to be played at Alumni Stadium, it was still important for both teams.
“We set that as a goal, to get first place,” Cummings said. “We wanted to get to a point, especially after the Lourdes’ result (earlier in the day), where we could get some
Kids on the field who’ve been coming to practice. It was a goal, though, from the start of the season to end in first.”
“You want to win to win every game you play, but playoffs are really what matters.” Pollari said. “We’re locked into the playoffs and we’re going to take each week one at a time and work on getting better, regardless of who we’re playing.”
Guelph CVI 17 Lourdes 16
A punt return for a touchdown by Anakin Guthrie proved to be the big play of the game for GCVI.
“That was the big swing in the game,” GCVI coach Dan Crabbe said. “I was looking at the clock and five minutes had come off the clock in the fourth quarter. We needed something. We needed a spark and that was certainly it.”
“I just remember thinking that we had to take this one to the house,” Guthrie said. “We were down by six and it just felt really good. The edge was there. We had a wall.”
“One play it came down to,” Lourdes coach Joe Camilleri said. “We had 11 guys on the field. We had 11 guys on the field and we tell the guys to know their jobs and know their assignments. The games never come down to one play, one call, but that was a big one. They got the lead.”
The Gaels led 7-0 at the end of the first quarter and 10-7 at halftime before Lourdes shot ahead 16-10 by the end of the third quarter.
“That was certainly a big win,” Crabbe said. “We know we sort of dug ourselves a hole (by losing our first two games) at the beginning of this season. We’ve had to come back and put a string of victories together.”
“We’ve gained momentum at this point,” Guthrie said. “We really got on a roll and we’re going to bring it to BM next week, that’s for sure.”
“It’s disappointing. We know we’re eliminated now,” Camilleri said. “We can’t get in. There’s no we can get in now. It’s disappointing and I feel bad for the group of 12-pluses. They’re out there every day – cold, wet wind, whatever. I thought our expectations were a little bit better than what our result is going to be. I thought we should’ve been in the top four, (but) we lost to two of the teams that are going to be in the playoffs by a total of six points.”
The Crusaders pressed early in the fourth quarter and had possession deep in GCVI territory, but turned the ball over on downs on a third-quarter gamble when they decided to keep the drive going rather than try for a field goal. They also opted not to punt the ball through the end zone for a single to up their lead to seven.
“We thought about it,” Camilleri said. “That would get us to 17-10. If the punt return happens, it’s 17-17 and then they were down here (deep in Lourdes territory) at the end to win the game anyway.”
Enzo Njo had the first-quarter TD for GCVI while Abdalrahiem Suleiman kicked a field goal and two converts.
Zachary DeCorso and QB Jack St. Hilaire scored the TDs for Lourdes while Nahome Ezra converted both and the Gaels conceded a safety to account for the scoring.
“That’s a tough Lourdes team and these teams are evenly matched,” Crabbe said. “Our guys hung in there for four quarters and we came out the other end with a win.”