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Bayridge gains first victory of the season

September 25, 2014


If you thought there wasn’t much going on, and you left the game early Wednesday afternoon, that would have been too bad.

That’s because you’d have gone home without seeing some of the best football either team had to offer.

First, the Bayridge Blazers drove from their own 10-yard line deep into Napanee territory. Though they didn’t score, they gave the Golden Hawks a long field and less than a minute to get to the Bayridge goal line. That, however, is when Napanee had its best drive of the afternoon, one that ended with an incomplete pass in the aforementioned end zone as time expired.

Though his team failed to score, and the Blazers walked off the field with a 7-0 win, the drive gave Golden Hawks coach Brian Heaton something positive to discuss with his players, precisely the kind of thing a fledgling team needs.

“It’s been a learning process,” Heaton said of returning to senior competition in the Kingston Area Secondary Schools Athletic Association after a three-year hiatus. “The kids have been keen and coachable, and we’ve had good efforts, especially in the second half today.

“It came down to the last play and that’s encouraging to see.”

Bayridge hadn’t scored since the second quarter, when Lance Cellini caught a 12-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jordan Fehr. From that point, both teams moved the football in spurts, but neither threatened to score.

It wasn’t until the game’s last few minutes that Bayridge, pinned deep in its own end by a Napanee punt, mounted a fine drive, one that included a 20-yard run on which Matt Camelleri stiff-armed and bowled over a couple of would-be tacklers on his way inside the Golden Hawks’ 20-yard line.

A botched play and two penalties later, Bayridge had to punt and Napanee got the ball back on its own 21-yard line with about 45 seconds to play. Liam Maracle completed two passes, the first a 36-yard play to Hayden Ford, and a couple of penalties put the Hawks on the Bayridge 15 with time left for one play.

Maracle couldn’t find his receiver with his final throw, however, and the Blazers gained their first win of the season.

“We would have liked to have put more points on the board but a win’s a win and it gets us back to 1-1,” said Bayridge coach Mike McCourt.

Though the Blazers were looking at a fairly distinct size discrepancy, particularly along the line—where four of five Bayridge offensive linemen are first-year seniors—they handled it well, with an edge in quickness and superior tackling. The performance was much better, McCourt said, than his team’s first game of the season, a 45-0 loss to Holy Cross last Friday.

“We eliminated most of our unforced mistakes, confusion, things like that,” he said. “We got the first-game jitters out last week and so today I thought things ran a lot more smoothly. We showed that our offence can move the ball. We only got seven points but I felt like we went up and down the field. We had two deep balls that (the receiver) usually catches, that could have broken the game open … (but) I thought we executed better.

“We still have some execution stuff to clean up but it was much better.”

As the game progressed, Bayridge found itself in some injury difficulty; by the end Cellini was out of the match with a possible broken collarbone, safety Owen Henderson-Hahn, who earlier in the game intercepted a pass, was also on the sidelines, among others, a list that included not only the punter, but the back-up punter and the crash kicker, as well. “When we had to punt on our last series,” McCourt said, “we were (calling on the sideline), ‘Who can kick?’ ‘Who out here can kick?’”

There was no doubt a little bit of that going on at Napanee on the first week of school, as well, as Heaton and his staff assembled the school’s first senior team in four years. The response was good for a school that couldn’t muster a team for the interim, as the Hawks list a lineup of 35 players, some of whom have played junior ball and some are playing football for the first time.

“There’s some excitement at the school for getting it revived,” Heaton said. “We’ve got a great group of kids and a committed coaching staff. We’re excited and glad to be part of the league again.”

The goals are modest for a team that has now lost two close games, Wednesday and 17-8 to the KC-QE Combines a week ago.

“I’d like to have a competitive season,” Heaton said. “If we can improve each week and get a good effort from the kids, we’ll be happy with that. We’re going to have a couple of tough games coming up but it will be good for the kids to see what it’s like to play the top teams.”

Already, Heaton said, he’s seeing signs of improvement. “The kids have a better understanding of the play book. It’s taken a while to get the kids comfortable with what we’re running on offence. The receivers, especially, are more comfortable with the routes and the timing is developing between our quarterback and some of our key receivers.”

In Wednesday’s other senior contest, the La Salle Black Knights opened their season with a 30-6 win over the visiting Regiopolis Notre Dame Panthers. The loss evened Regi’s record at 1-1.

Play resumes Thursday, as Holy Cross visits Sydenham in a game of undefeated teams at 3 p.m. and Frontenac hosts Ernestown in a game of 0-1 teams at 4:45.

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