By Larry Moko
Linebacker Kobi Ofuokwu won’t soon forget the 2018 Golden Horseshoe Athletic Conference championship football game.
It was a memorable performance because he intercepted two passes, stripped the ball for a fumble and made numerous tackles to help the St. Thomas More Knights defeat the Cardinal Newman Cardinals, 20-9, Tuesday.
With the victory the Knights advance to Ottawa’s TD Place Stadium for next week’s OFSAA Bowl Festival series. More will face the London Catholic Central Crusaders Monday in the Western Bowl.
“This game actually meant a lot to me,” Ofuokwu said. “Last time against Newman I didn’t have my best game.
“I was coming in full-swing mentally today. It was probably the best game I’ve ever played on this field.”
The first of Ofuokwu’s interceptions occurred early in the second quarter when Newman, on a pair of field goals of 23 and 28 yards by Vince Triumbari, held a 6-0 lead. Ofuokwa picked off the Daniel Eldridge pass at the Newman 45-yard line and returned it to the 30. From there, More quarterback Evan Hillock tossed a 30-yard touchdown pass to Isaiah Parkinson.
“That interception was a big turning point in the game,” said Ofuokwa, a Grade 12 student. “It gave life to everyone. I was glad to be the guy to do it.”
More took a 13-9 lead into the intermission as Dante Medeiros kicked field goals of 31 and 12 yards for the Knights while Triumbari replied with his third three-pointer (from 29 yards).
What turned out to be Newman’s final score of the day resulted from a blocked punt by Drake Bodi and a recovery by teammate Luca Bertolo at the More 30-yard with 20 seconds left in the first half.
Josh Munoz accounted for More’s final touchdown on a five-yard third-quarter run. That was set up when defensive end Kristian Stewart blocked a punt to give More possession on the Newman 37-yard line. Stewart, incidentally, also blocked a punt during More’s 17-7 victory over Newman in the recent HWCAA final.
“We all just feed off each other,” Stewart said of the strong More defence. “Everyone works. It’s always 12 to the ball.
“Everyone was ready. We want to go to OFSAA. That drove us. And this is a rivalry game, too.”
It was the third time in three tries this season More has defeated Newman.
“It was a tough week playing these guys for a third time,” said Joe Burke, who has served as More’s defensive co-ordinator for 12 years. “I thought we did a really good job playing as a group.”
The Knights made four interceptions – two by Ofuokwu and one each by Janiel Gordon and Ethan Monoghan.
“Our defence is fast and it’s physical,” said Ofuokwa.
Offensively, More features four elusive and hard-to-bring down ball carriers – Munoz, Parkinson, Juwaun Smith and Josiah Clarke.
More – ranked No. 1 in Canada and winners of three consecutive OFSAA bowl games – faces the No. 3-ranked Catholic Central squad in the season finale.
“Catholic Central is an established program,” Burke said. “They’re very good. We have a lot of respect for them. We’re in for a tough battle.”