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Falcons’ 26th straight win puts Frontenac into KASSAA senior football final

October 30, 2013

By CLAUDE SCILLEY

Two explosive plays for long touchdowns in the first half may have stung the Sydenham Golden Eagles like daggers to the heart but that isn’t what killed their playoff aspirations Tuesday afternoon. They ultimately didn’t succumb until the Frontenac Falcons decided to run them into the ground, a few yards at a time.

A superb 100-yard drive that consumed most of the third quarter — all of it along the ground, most of it gained by tailback Braeden Stevenhaagen — was vital in the defending champion Falcons beginning the senior high school football playoffs with a 31-11 home-field victory.

“They kind of asserted their will on us there,” said Sydenham coach Mike Love, whose team had the better of the play in the first half, and trailed just 14-11 until Frontenac scored a late touchdown to take a 10-point lead into the intermission.

The game turned on a sequence early in the third quarter. Frontenac fumbled the football deep in its own end and Sydenham recovered on the Falcons’ 28-yard line. Unable to move the football, the Golden Eagles tried for a field goal but the kick was unsuccessful.

Frontenac took possession at its own 10-yard line and began the march that ended with Stevenhaagen’s 11-yard touchdown run. The 14-point swing essentially determined the winner.

“That’s the game,” Falcons coach Mike Doyle said.

Frontenac never trailed but in the first half neither did it look like a team that has lost one game in three years and won its last 25 in a row. But for a 70-yard touchdown pass to Aidan Stride on the first play of the game and a similar play to Brett Byron in the second quarter, the Falcons offence did little in the game’s first 20 minutes.

“They were in a three-man front, linebackers three or four yards deep,” Doyle said, “and I think their strategy on defence was, ‘If you’re going to throw the ball, we’re going to drop nine guys into coverage and you’re going to have to take the chance of interceptions.’”

The answer for Frontenac was to run the football, so Doyle said the Falcons made some adjustments in their blocking scheme at halftime. The first time they tried the new look, however, an assignment was missed and Stevenhaagen fumbled the football.

After the Frontenac defence held, the Falcons offence got it right. It was only logical Doyle said, that the team go right back to Stevenhaagen the next time they got the ball.

“Braeden’s a leader on the team,” Doyle said. “He’s a fifth-year kid, solid as a rock, a salt-of-the-earth kid. That’s what you do with those kids. They need to get that confidence right back and show their team that they’re still ready to play.”

Not only did Stevenhaagen not disappoint, the offensive line seemed keen to make amends as well.

“All of a sudden,” Doyle said, “it was like the O line was real hungry. We were getting a great surge off the line.”

Doyle noted the fine play of tackles Nolan McGreer and Zach Wilson, as well as Tony Van Hooser, but one player who particularly impressed was backup guard Nick Andrews, who was playing just his first full senior game.

“I think the kid might have made one mistake all day,” Doyle said. “He also made a really good block in the open field to spring Braeden on a screen pass in the first half.

“Playing in a big game, he played a really good game.”

With the score 7-3 in the first half, Sydenham had two possessions inside the Frontenac 30-yard line and all the Eagles managed was a rouge on a missed field goal, a possession that was also set up by a Frontenac fumble.

On the very next play Rob Magee hit Byron with the 75-yard TD pass to make the score 14-4.

Late in the half Sydenham quarterback Dylan Fisher completed three straight passes to Nate Thompson, the longest of 43 yards, the last a 23-yard touchdown throw that Thompson caught in double coverage to lift the Eagles to within three points of the lead.

Frontenac followed with another long pass by Magee, 53 yards to Byron, to the Sydenham two-yard line. Harry Robinson carried into the end zone for the score and Declan McCann’s convert gave the Falcons a 21-11 lead.

After the nothing-fancy drive — conducted almost exclusively between the tackles — that ended with Stevenhaagen’s touchdown, the Falcons got a 27-yard field goal from McCann in the fourth quarter to complete the scoring.

To a large degree, Sydenham was betrayed by its inability to capitalize on its scoring opportunities, getting just one touchdown and a single from four trips inside the Frontenac 30.

“That’s been our stumbling point this year — not being able to finish when we get our opportunities, leaving points out there,” Love said. “We missed a couple of field goals, had some chances to punch it in and just couldn’t do it.”

After the game, Love implored his players not to be discouraged.

“I told the kids to be proud of themselves,” he said. “They fought hard. They didn’t just roll over. (Frontenac) is a great team. They’re the kind of team that punishes you for mistakes. We made some mistakes and they made us pay.

“Giving a team like that 60 or 70 yards at a time is not a real recipe for success (but) our kids played with heart. They fought to the finish.”

Frontenac will advance to Sunday afternoon’s Kingston Area Secondary Schools Athletic Association AAA championship game at Richardson Stadium, where for the second year in a row it will face the Holy Cross Crusaders, 17-11 overtime winners over Regiopolis Notre Dame Tuesday, at 2:15. It’s the second game of the senior championship doubleheader, following the double-A final at noon between La Salle, which enjoyed a bye Tuesday, and Ernestown, which prevailed 35-7 over the Bayridge Blazers in the AA semifinal at Odessa.

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