Sydenham captures National Capital Bowl
By CLAUDE SCILLEY
In a game where the teams took turns showing remarkable resiliency, the Sydenham Golden Eagles defeated Peterborough’s Crestwood Mustangs 40-27 Wednesday in the National Capital Bowl senior AA football game at Mary Ann Sills Park in Belleville.
The win capped a 10-game undefeated season for the Golden Eagles, and the regional championship is the first in school history.
“I struggle to come up with a couple of easy descriptors,” said Eagles coach Mike Love, asked to characterize the nature of his team.
“We had the fewest players we’ve ever had,” he continued, “but it was a tight, close group that played for each other. They helped each other; they pushed each other—they made each other better.”
From such a group came not just spurts of excellence Wednesday, but the will to overcome the misfortune that befell them in between.
By the time the game was seven minutes old, Sydenham was on top of a 24-0 lead, after scoring each of the first four times it had the football. “Probably the worst possible start a football team can have,” Mustangs coach Shane Oldfield said.
Or perhaps the best.
“We came out like gangbusters,” said Love, whose team scored a touchdown on the second play of the game, scored again on its second possession, scored a third TD after successfully executing a short “moonshot” on the ensuing kickoff and then kicking a field goal the next time it had the ball.
Almost as remarkable was Crestwood’s performance in the second quarter, when the Mustangs capitalized on some breakdowns in the Sydenham secondary to score 21 straight points, and make it a 24-21 game at halftime.
“It was a roller-coaster first half,” Love said.
Crestwood, with second-half choice, opted to receive the kickoff and—after all 45 points in the first half were scored with a moderate wind at the backs of the respective offences—Sydenham then chose to play into the wind in the third quarter.
It was risky, in that with the momentum the Mustangs built in the second quarter, giving them the wind may have only enabled them to keep that going.
Rather than dwell on their misfortune, however, the Eagles instead scored two touchdowns and their defence forced Crestwood to punt after just two plays each of the first two times the Mustangs had the football.
One of those touchdowns consumed five minutes of the clock, and it came on a drive that was sustained by a successful gamble on third-and-five at the Crestwood 40-yard line, a play Oldfield called critical in determining the game’s ultimate outcome.
“It was a huge turning point,” Oldfield said. “If we’d stopped them at that point, the game could have ended quite differently.”
“Not only did it get us back on track,” he said of the third-quarter outburst, “we did it against the wind, and took that (advantage) away from them.”
“Going into the fourth quarter we have the wind and we’re leading by 19 points. That’s pretty tough to (overcome).”
Crestwood completed scoring with a touchdown with just four seconds left in the game.
As easily as Sydenham allowed Crestwood to get back in the game in the second quarter, it was remarkable how the Eagles were able to regain their composure during halftime.
“Our focus all year was not to give up big plays, and we gave up three of them (in the second quarter),” said Love, whose team was burned for one long touchdown and a big play on each of the other two scoring drives.
“We were pretty disappointed in ourselves after the second quarter. We got back to what we do well, which is making teams complete drives. If teams are going to score against us, we want to make them work for it.”
Oldfield noted some “really key adjustments” that Sydenham made in the second half that stymied the Crestwood passing attack.
“I don’t think we played particularly well, especially in the early part of the ball game,” he said. “We showed flashes of brilliance but against a good team like Sydenham, that’s not enough. You have to play the full 48 minutes.
“Except for the second quarter, Sydenham played exceptionally well.”
Sydenham mixed the pass and run game, with quarterback Dylan Fisher throwing three touchdown passes to Sam Moyse—the first for about 50 yards, another covering about 40 yards—while tailback Brodie Latimer scored two touchdowns along the ground.
“It wasn’t just one thing,” Love said. “We had a pretty good mix of run and pass. Brodie was a rock and Dylan (in addition to the touchdowns) completed a couple of passes on second-and-long to keep drives alive.”
Mike Bashall kicked all five converts, a field goal and two single points, one on a punt, the other on a kickoff, to account for the rest of the Sydenham scoring.
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