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Ernestown bows in EOSSAA football semifinal

November 9, 2013

By CLAUDE SCILLEY

GANANOQUE — Things didn’t start well for the Ernestown Eagles Friday afternoon and, well, they never really got much better.

The Gananoque Trojans scored a touchdown on their first punt return, scored the next time they had the ball, led by 21 points before the first quarter was over and they went on to thump the Eagles 35-0 in an Eastern Ontario Secondary Schools Athletic Association senior AA football semifinal game.

“Nothing went our way this game,” Ernestown coach Lou Bilkovski said. “There’s times that things happen and you get lucky but it seems like the football gods weren’t with us today.”

A fumbled handoff on their first play from scrimmage cost the Eagles five yards and quarterback Josh Campbell was sacked on the next play. Ian Swann then returned the ensuing punt 40 yards for a touchdown.

“That was a stinger. I think it shocked everybody, it was so quick,” Bilkovski said.

Ernestown went back one yard on its next possession, a penalty on a poor punt gave Gananoque first down on the Eagles’ 28-yard line and it took just four rushing plays for the home team to score again.

By the time the first quarter was done, the Trojans had scored once more, Ernestown had lost two key players — two-way back and punter Hayden McDonald and two-way lineman Jake McDonald — to injury and before two minutes had been played in the second quarter, Gananoque had scored again.

At that point it was 28-0 and the Trojans had more touchdowns than Ernestown had yards of net offence.

“It started early for us, from our very first play,” Bilkovski said. “We thought we were going to move the ball quickly and it didn’t happen for us. Then when we lost some players, certain players didn’t know the positions in our offence.

“It’s silly little things that happen … but I’m glad that the guys kept their heads late in the game.”

Ernestown then stemmed the tide and, as it did in the Kingston Area final against La Salle, slowly began to assert itself — the Eagles had more first downs and more net yards than Gananoque the rest of the way — but they could not score and, unlike the game against La Salle, the deficit was too large for the visitors to hope realistically to overcome it.

Five times Ernestown gambled on third down in an attempt to get back in the game, and five times the Eagles were denied. Ernestown got to the Gananoque 20-yard line twice in the second quarter — once with first-and-goal from the seven — but the Trojans withstood both threats.

Bilkovski refused to allow his shallow bench to be used as an excuse — with receiver Justin Elson already hurt, he had just 18 players at his disposal by the second quarter — but the fact is way too many Eagles were playing their third two-way game in 11 days for them to be at their best.

“They worked their butts off and I can’t ask any more of my team,” Bilkovski said of his Kingston Area AA champions. “They worked hard and did the best they could. That’s all I can ask. I can walk away from this with my head up and the guys can, too. I’m very proud of them for what they accomplished.”

Tyson Tennant and Jacob Pardy, on short runs in the first quarter, Manion Anderson, on a 19-yard pass from Tyler Hartley in the second quarter, and Tyler Whitehead, on a 65-yard pass from Hartley in the fourth, scored the Gananoque touchdowns.

Richard Byrne kicked all five converts and punted for a 39.8-yard average.

The game’s top offensive threats were Trojans running back Tyler Turcotte, who carried 14 times for 89 yards, and Konner Burtenshaw of Ernestown, who carried 10 times for 87 yards and caught a pass for 19 more.

Gananoque will advance to play in the EOSSAA AA final against the winner of Friday’s other semifinal, between the champions of the Lanark and Upper Ottawa Valley conferences.

On Tuesday, the Frontenac Falcons will travel to Brockville to play the Thousand Islands Pirates for the Eastern Ontario triple-A championship. The winner of that game will go to Toronto Nov. 26 to play in one of this year’s eight OFSAA bowls, against the champion of the Region of Peel.

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