Frontenac comes from behind to defeat Richview in OFSAA Bowl football game
By CLAUDE SCILLEY
HAMILTON—It was, Mike Doyle said, a difficult decision to make.
“Rob’s meant so much to our program, to have to do that …,” Doyle’s voice trailed off, as he revisited the emotion of the moment.
It’s not easy to pull your starting quarterback out of a championship game, but by the end of the third quarter of Frontenac Falcons’ OFSAA Bowl football match here, it was clear that Rob Magee’s injured hand was getting the best of him, and he had to be replaced.
Doyle, the head coach, and Mark Magee, the offensive co-ordinator—and Rob’s uncle—huddled with their quarterback.
“It was a decision that we made with Rob,” Doyle said. “It was tough. He knew it was the right decision and Rob was a big part of making that call.”
It was indeed the right decision.
Rookie Brendan Steele, a starting receiver, went into the game immediately after the Richview Saints took a 10-point lead in the game at Ron Joyce Stadium. He completed his first five passes and engineered back-to-back touchdown drives that lifted Frontenac to a 24-20 victory.
It was the Falcons’ seventh win in a provincial bowl game, their third in the last four years.
It looked like it was slipping away, however, when Richview quarterback Sean Kelly connected with Jamoy Thompson for a 45-yard touchdown pass with less than a minute to play in the third quarter, a play that gave the Toronto District Secondary Schools Athletic Association champion Saints a 20-10 lead.
The Falcons were poor candidates for a comeback, with just 40 yards of offence in the third quarter, as Magee, after completing six of his first seven passes, missed five in a row, the one of them an interception, the second of his passes Richview picked off inside the Saints’ 10-yard line.
The ball was fluttering inexplicably awry out of Magee’s hand, and after the game it was revealed that Magee had cut himself with some glass at the base of his right—throwing—hand in accident a little over a week ago, damaging a tendon.
Enter Steele, who displayed an amazing degree of poise for the situation: a rookie thrust into a championship game his team was losing.
“Just brilliant,” Doyle said of the young quarterback’s performance. “He’s got a lot of courage. To walk in and go to the passing game right away? Outstanding.”
Steele gained first down on his first play, a 15-yard completion to Carter Matheson. The boost that one play gave to his team, Doyle said, was “immeasurable.”
“Just for his own confidence, and then all of a sudden the whole team just lifted up there,” he said. “It was great.
“People don’t really understand the importance of backup players in football, and how important it is, whether it’s a guard or a tackle or a safety or whoever goes down, that there’s a kid ready to step in and fill that spot. This is a perfect example.”
The play was one Coach Magee believed would work.
“They were playing cover 3, hold and (that play) was there all game. The corner was taking off and giving us the out. I just told Brendan, read the corner, and if the corner takes off, Carter will be open because the underneath cover guy can’t get there.
“They didn’t change their coverage all game against that formation, so it was easy to call. It was a safe throw for him.”
Nonetheless, Magee said he had confidence Steele would perform well.
“He understands the offence and he’s a smart guy. He still needs to get stronger but he did a great job of leading today, which was really important because we needed that when we were down. It’s the same kind of leadership we had all year with Rob.
“It’s part of the message that we put out there as coaches: everybody needs to be a leader, even if you’re not a captain, and how do you lead? You lead with your play. (Brendan) comes to practice every day, he works hard and he listens well.”
The lead changed hands three times after Frontenac’s Braeden North opened scoring with a 36-yard field goal, the only scoring play of the first quarter. Between touchdowns by Richview’s Donald Shaw, Dustin Brogaard scored the first of his three touchdowns for Frontenac, and the teams went into the intermission with Richview leading 14-10.
Thompson’s touchdown—the convert failed—sent the Saints into the fourth quarter with a 10-point lead and with Shaw running amok, with 241 yards in the first three quarters, it appeared the Falcons would be hard-pressed to rally.
That’s just what they did, however, as Steele completed a four-play, 77-yard drive that ended with Brogaard’s one-yard TD run and then a six-play, 68-yard drive that ended with Brogaard breaking four or five tackles on a tremendous 19-yard run to the end zone.
After that, the Falcons defence took over, forcing turnovers on Richview’s next three possessions and finally solving the puzzle that was Shaw.
After his 21st carry of the afternoon, a 47-yard gain on the first play after Frontenac’s second touchdown, Shaw started to show signs of the workload. He was stopped for little or no gain on three of his next six carries and on the best of them, a 14-yard dash down the sideline, he had the ball ripped from his arms by Frontenac linebacker Alec Ferland.
That’s partly why, Saints coach Stath Koumoutseas said, Richview went to the air on its final two possessions, when the running game had been so successful to that point.
“When we went up 20-10 I thought that if we could just run the ball and control the clock (we’d be fine), but they came up with some deep balls that really got them back in the game and changed the momentum,” Koumoutseas said.
“It was a weird kind of game. We couldn’t really throw well in the first half and it was all relying on the run (but) we do have some skill guys and we thought we could open it up a bit by passing, and maybe go back to Donald, but he was wearing down. He had a lot of carries.”
Shaw missed last year’s OFSAA game after he broke his fibula on the second play of the Toronto city championship game. Wednesday, he finished the game with 328 yards on 28 carries, and with three pass receptions, he was involved in 67 per cent of his team’s offensive plays and gained 76 per cent of his team’s total yards. In addition to the two touchdowns, he had 10 of his team’s 13 first downs.
“He’s an outstanding kid,” Koumoutseas said. “He’s a leader in our school, and on our team. It’s been a pleasure to work with him the last few years. He’s a special kid.
“His speed’s really improved the last couple of years. He’s a power back but he’s got a combination of power and speed, so he’s strong, he can break a tackle, but he’s also got speed, where he can cut outside and find open lanes for a touchdown.”
Doyle was suitably impressed.
“He’s amazing. The middle of our line is as good as we’ve ever had, with Liam Haigh and Dillon Wisteard, but even when they got a good chunk of him, he bounced off. Now we’re making tackles on the second and third level on him, which was tough to do.”
Doyle said his players paid a bit of a price for having not played a game for 17 days since they won the Kingston Area championship on Nov. 8.
“The kids were a little frenetic in the first half, a little bit panic-stricken,” Doyle said. “They returned to old habits a little bit. After the three-week layoff they kind of returned to not seeing what was in front of them. It felt a little like back to square one for a while but we tried to calm them down at the half, (help them to) relax, settle in and come out seeing things better.
“They were able to get it back together in the second half. The defence firmed up. We still had some errors and they still made some big plays on us, but we were much tougher.”
Doyle, whose team lost three of its first four games this year, was delighted with the season’s outcome.
“It’s a fairy tale ending,” he said. “It’s amazing that these kids, after a 1-3 start, hung in and they can now call themselves OFSAA champions.”
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