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Sydenham prevails in battle of undefeated teams

October 10, 2014

By CLAUDE SCILLEY

SYDENHAM — It’s not the traditional deep kickoff, and neither is it the customary short kick that teams often use to keep possession of the football. The Sydenham Golden Eagles employ a bit of a hybrid, somewhere between the two.

“It’s kind of a medium kick, I’d say,” coach Mike Love explained, and his team does it pretty darn well.

Thursday night, Mike Bashall executed it to perfection. Sydenham’s Jack Pickernell recovered the kick, and within half a dozen plays the Eagles had turned it into the touchdown that proved to be the difference in a 28-21 victory over the La Salle Black Knights in the ninth annual Bubba Bowl at McLellan Field.

The victory left Sydenham, 3-0, as the only undefeated team in the Kingston Area Secondary Schools Athletic Association, and dropped La Salle into a three-way tie for second place with Holy Cross and Regi at 2-1.

On a clear night, with a full moon and a temperature that had dipped to 6 degrees by the end of the game, about 800 spectators watched the teams battle back and forth for three quarters. La Salle scored first but Sydenham led 7-6 at halftime.

There was no more scoring until Thomas Withey intercepted a Mitch Dowd pass and returned it about 20 yards for a touchdown at 8:13 of the third quarter, giving Sydenham a 14-6 lead.

It took La Salle just two minutes to answer, when Dowd and Jacob Moreland connected for a 10-yard touchdown, and Dowd followed by passing to Denver Stephens for a two-point convert that tied the game.

Sydenham regained the lead on the next series, on a 36-yard touchdown pass from Dylan Fisher to Sam Moyse, and that’s when Love called for the “medium kick.”

“It’s not really a true short kick,” Love said. “We have a deep kick and we have that kick. We use it a lot some games and we use it hardly at all other games. It’s just part of our repertoire.

“It’s a kick we always have a shot at getting, or at least put a little pressure on the other team to receive it cleanly. It wasn’t really a short-kick intention, it was just (a case of) let’s see if we can make something happen.”

At that point in the game, with the Knights proving to be difficult to put away, Love believed the time was right.

“We needed something to happen,” he said. “We were kind of back and forth; we’d get a big one and they’d come back and get one. I was looking for a little momentum, I guess, and that’s the kind of kick, even if they recover it, it’s usually dicey, big hits sometimes come out of it, and the kids get a little pumped up.

“It worked out well.”

It didn’t take long for Brodie Latimer to score the touchdown that ultimately provided the margin of victory, though it took him two cracks at first-and-goal from the one-yard line. Ultimately, the Eagles needed those points.

That’s because the Knights recovered a botched Sydenham snap at the Eagles’ 25-yard line with 2:37 to play, and scored a touchdown to draw within seven points when Dowd completed a 15-yard pass to Stephens with 49.3 seconds remaining.

Sydenham recovered La Salle’s attempt at a traditional short kickoff, but mismanaged the clock and had to punt, giving the Knights enough time for two more plays. La Salle got the ball as far as midfield when time expired.

La Salle coach Reuben Brunet called Sydenham’s recovery of its own kick “a game changer,” as it helped to take his team from tied to down 14 points “in about two minutes.”

Brunet was pleased with the way his team maintained its composure after the Sydenham explosion. “They’re a pretty resilient bunch,” he said of his players, but he also lamented some of the penalties they took.

“Our discipline cost us a little bit,” he said, tipping his hat to the Sydenham offence and some “great play” on special teams.

In addition to the kickoff, the Eagles got a 57-yard punt return by Withey just before halftime that set his team up inside the La Salle 20-yard line. The drive died on a fumble at the La Salle eight.

Withey played a splendid game, with that return, two interceptions and a touchdown as the highlights.

Amid several fine performances—La Salle’s Caedan Saulnier had two interceptions in the first quarter, Dowd and Fisher each threw for two touchdowns, Knights kicker Isaac Hetherington kicked field goals of 35 and 32 yards and Bashall had a 65-yard touchdown catch—perhaps the best display was by La Salle tailback Tim Wight, who kept the Eagles on their heels with some tough running, sprinkled with some nice gains off well-executed screen passes.

“I’ll tell you what,” Love said, “they ran up and down our throats a little bit. That No. 8 (Wight) is a real tough runner. He was running through our arms a lot. We’d have him touched two yards away and he’d get another six or seven on his own.”

Sydenham did a better job defending him in the second half.

“We started keying a little bit more on him,” Love said. “The guys were a little bit more aware of him. He was hurting us. First half, he hurt us a lot. We knew we had to keep an eye on him a little closer and the boys did a better job of getting the wrap on him and bringing him down with a bunch of bodies coming to the play.”

Sydenham will go into the second half of the season having already dealt with three of the league’s other top teams, Frontenac, Holy Cross and now La Salle. The Eagles aren’t scheduled to play Regiopolis Notre Dame.

Play resumes today when the Kingston-Queen Elizabeth Combines, 1-1, play the Blazers, 1-2, at Bayridge at 4:45 p.m. and Regi and Holy Cross meet at Caraco Field at 7 o’clock.

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