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La Salle remains undefeated after error-filled, but dramatic, win over Frontenac

October 4, 2014

By CLAUDE SCILLEY

Despite a series of blunders that would, on most days, make coaches weep, no one produced a handkerchief Friday night on the sidelines at La Salle Secondary School. Ultimately, there was no need.

That’s because, despite error after error, taking turns giving each other one glorious opportunity after another, neither the Frontenac Falcons nor the La Salle Black Knights seemed capable of making their opponent pay for their misdeeds.

It was remarkable, then, that a game, which was scoreless until the final 35 seconds of the first half—due largely to collective opportunistic ineptitude—would suddenly ascend into a series of spectacular plays in the final period.

La Salle eventually was able to do it once more than Frontenac could, and a 54-yard touchdown run by Tim Wight with about three minutes left to play in the game gave the home team a 15-14 win in a Kingston Area Secondary Schools Athletic Association senior football contest.

In Friday’s other game, the Ernestown Eagles gained their first victory of the season, 43-1 over the Bayridge Blazers.

In the late-afternoon twilight at La Salle, the first half was a litany of mistakes that on many days would have led teams to easy scores.

Early in the ball game, La Salle’s Eric Brick intercepted a pass deep in his end zone, but on the next play, the Knights botched the snap and Frontenac recovered the fumble at the La Salle 13-yard line.

Frontenac failed on third-and-seven from the 10 to squander that opportunity, but then the Falcons got another when Connor O’Neil intercepted and took the ball to the La Salle 22-yard line. Unable to gain first down, Frontenac proceeded to miss a field-goal attempt.

Finally somebody made something of the other guy’s misfortune, when Brodie Shannon intercepted a screen pass from Falcons quarterback Rob Magee at the Knights’ 30, a play that negated whatever momentum Frontenac could have gleaned by a fine 45-yard run up the middle by Tyson Losier.

From there La Salle marched deep into Frontenac territory, but settled for a 24-yard field goal from Isaac Hetherington that proved to be the only score of the first half.

The misadventure continued in the third quarter, but this time Frontenac actually capitalized. A blocked punt at midfield was followed by a successful gamble on third-and-one, and on the next play Magee connected with O’Neil on a splendid pass play that ended 40 yards later in the La Salle end zone for a 7-3 Frontenac lead.

Not long after that the Frontenac kicker skied a punt and the play was blown dead when the ball didn’t cross the line of scrimmage. Rather than regain the lead, the Knights promptly fumbled the ball at their own 33-yard line. Instead of taking advantage of that, the Falcons were two-and-out.

La Salle took a 9-7 lead when quarterback Mitch Dowd and Jordan Price connected for a 55-yard touchdown pass; then on the very next play from scrimmage, O’Neil dashed 80 yards for a Frontenac touchdown that gave the Falcons a 14-9 lead.

By now the big plays were coming thick and fast, and it wasn’t long before Wight, the converted quarterback, turned his long run into a major score.

“Just a little off-tackle play,” La Salle coach Reuben Brunet said, “but he’s that kind of athlete—very fit and a very strong guy. He’s just a talented athlete.

“He really wanted to become the running back and we had the young Dowd boy coming up from junior, so we thought we’d see if we could make that work and so far it’s worked well.”

Frontenac got the ball back with 2:50 to play but that possession ended with an incomplete pass at the La Salle 50 with 1:15 left in the game. The Knights couldn’t kill the clock, however, and the Falcons again got the ball back, this time on their own 20-yard line with 53 seconds on the clock. Three incomplete passes later they surrendered the ball for the last time.

Frontenac coach Mike Doyle spoke of inexperience when asked to explain how a game, which at one time was characterized by some bad mistakes, was ultimately decided by some thrilling plays.

“We both shot ourselves in the foot on a number of occasions,” Doyle said. “When you get a team second-and-25, a couple of times we had them in real bad situations, and we let them out; not being alert about down and distance, (where) we run a seven-yard hook when we only need two yards and end up running ourselves into coverage. Stuff like that. It’s just inexperience for us.”

Overcoming such hardship was a sign of his team’s character, Brunet said.

“We’ve got a lot of really good kids,” he said. “There are teams that I’ve been a part of that would have mentally laid down when they were down 14-9 and those guys didn’t. They came out fired up.

“I think part of it is they’re a very close-knit group. They get along very well.”

That’s not to say that Brunet didn’t recognize his good fortune that his team was able to prevail, despite some terrible errors.

“We made way too many mistakes for a high quality football team. You can’t make those mistakes and expect to beat teams that are well coached. We kind of snuck one by them. We’re going to have to make some changes and cut those mistakes out.”

Doyle, whose defending county championship team is now 1-2 for the first time in many years, said despite their collective youth, his players were coping with the up-and-down nature of the fourth quarter well.

“We got three throws at the end of the game from deep in our own end and had receivers behind coverage and open but just overthrew them. We’re close. I don’t think we’re that far away from being good, but I think you have to be able to make those plays when they’re there.”

He believes his team is making progress, but “I think any coach would be troubled with the inconsistency.”

“You nab them for a five-yard loss and give it back, or you have a bit of a drive going and you have a drop or a missed throw, keep letting (the other team) back in.”

At Odessa, Ernestown moved into a tie with Frontenac among the league’s triple-A teams with its first win of the year. The Eagles, who had scored just eight points in their first two games, raced to a 19-0 lead by the end of the first quarter. It was 26-1 at halftime and after a 17-point third quarter the game was scoreless in the fourth.

Konner Burtenshaw and Justin Elson each scored two rushing touchdowns for Ernestown, while Josh Campbell threw to Wiley Taylor for the Eagles’ other major. Jake Dawson kicked a pair of field goals and five converts.

Play resumes Wednesday when Napanee, 0-3, visits Ernestown at 3 p.m. and Sydenham hosts La Salle in a crucial match of undefeated AA teams in the annual Bubba Bowl game at 8.

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