Spartans sting Celtics with last-play touchdown

Rob Massey, Guelph Sports Journal

GUELPH – Receiver Drake Davis of the Centennial Spartans made a couple of catches on offence, but it was one he made on defence that gave the Spartans a 29-23 victory over the Bishop Macdonell Celtics in Thursday’s District 10 high school football season opener at Centennial.

Davis returned an interception 40 yards to the Bishop Mac end zone on the final play of the game to make the Spartans winners.

“I was put in and I’d never played (defensive back) before,” Davis said. “I can’t say I was good, but they told me to me to back up. I listen to coach because coach always tells me what to do. He knows what’s good. So I backed up, saw it thrown and I jumped it, almost dropped it and almost fell, too. I’d have lost my mind if I had just fell.

“But I jumped to the side and got smacked in the face. My face still hurts, actually. I just took it, got some blocks, I saw them and I just scored.”

“He’s one of our top-end receivers,” Centennial coach Zach Pollari said of Davis. “We just figured we wanted him on the field in a prevent-type defence and he made a play and turned it into points.”

Then it was elation for the Spartans and Davis who was mobbed by his teammates.

“I’m still in awe,” he said of the play. “I can’t even believe I did it. It’s incredible.”

The Spartans rallied from a 17-point deficit for the victory.

“We didn’t do too well in the beginning,” Davis said. “But we stuck in and the defence started making plays. We all just rallied off of that.”

“The thing we talked about at halftime was that regardless of the outcome of the game, we’ve got to leave everything we’ve got on the field and give it our best effort,” Pollari said. “We were fortunate that we had the ball kind of roll our way and we ended up with the win.

“We were just kind of missing passes, missing a couple of blocks and our defence blew some coverages. It was really about focusing in on our jobs. BM’s a really good football team and they’re going to give every team in this league a run for their money. We had our work cut out for us today and we were lucky to scrape out with a win.”

Bishop Mac left the field disappointed, but encouraged as they had led 20-3 in the second quarter.

“This was a difficult game as it was clearly a game that we lost,” coach Rob Hamilton said. “We’re in that situation where we’re able to win every game we’re going to play this year and this was a case where we lost the game with some critical mistakes, a couple of personnel errors, all the first-game jitters and that kind of stuff. At this point I’m very confident with our team moving forward and we’ll have a very successful season.”

Bishop Mac’s scoring dried up in the second half as the Celtics were held to a single field goal by Nick Guardiero that tied the score 23-23 with five and a half minutes to go in the game.

“That was an incredible game, one of the best I’ve ever played in,” Davis said. “I have so much respect for that team. They haven’t been doing too well for a few years, but I was expecting them. They came out hard. It was a great game and I appreciate that.”

After languishing at our near the bottom of the standings since their return to D10 football in 2009, the Celtics are looking for better this year.

“We’re no longer rebuilding our team,” Hamilton said. “This is the team that we’re going to have every single year. We’re going to be continually rolling forward with what we do. Our systems are in place, now it’s just doing our jobs and executing.”

Any fifth-year Celtic who has been with the team the previous four years has experienced two victories in 22 games. That translates to needing to learn how to win.

“I think that attitude is a big thing,” Hamilton said. “With the kids that we have on our team I’m confident that we’ll be able to get that mentally in order, but that’s always been an issue for us in the past.

“Mental toughness is one of the things that will break any team in this league right now. I think we’re very even in District 10. We’re very even teams and I think it’s going to come down to one score in each game.”

The TD by Drake was Centennial’s second pick six as Andrew Riley had returned one to the house with four and a half minutes to go in the third quarter that tied the score 20-20.

Quarterback Daniel Brown had scored the other TD for the hosts as he ran in on a 10-yard play after he couldn’t find an open receiver.

All the other points in the game were scored by the kickers as Ben Lane of Centennial and Guardiero of Bishop Mac engaged in a game-long battle. Lane kicked three field goals, including a 42-yarder, and two converts for the Spartans while Guardiero also booted three field goals and two converts to go with a TD reception of a Caelen Fraser on a catch-and-run play that covered about 80 yards.

Jon Grundy scored the other TD for Bishop Mac.

Both teams were also pleased to get a tough game to start the season, although there might not be any easy games in the six-team league this year.

“Regardless of the outcome, it was a really good challenge,” Pollari said. “Now we’ve got some stuff on film and we can go and see what we need to do to improve.”

“We’ve got to set our benchmark to where we’re starting off,” Hamilton said. “We’ve got to continually push to get better and better and better and whenever we think we’re doing OK, we’ve just got to check ourselves and make sure we’re still on track and continually improve.