Destiny Discover

Cardinals capture opening game victory

By Larry Moko

They love their football at St. John Henry Newman Catholic Secondary School.

When tryouts for the Cardinals senior team were held earlier this month, 76 players showed up to vie for berths on the squad.

“It was more than ever in my time here,” veteran Newman coach Lino Battilana said of the turnout. “We kept 50. There were some tough decisions. I’d love to keep them all but it’s just not feasible.”

Battilana’s boys opened their 2021 Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic league schedule at home Friday with a 24-0 victory over the Bishop Tonnos Titans. Tonnos fell to 1-1 after a 28-14 win the previous week over the Bishop Ryan Celtics.

“It’s a great feeling,” Battilana said of the return to gridiron action after being deprived of an entire football season in 2020 due to the pandemic. “I’ve taken it for granted my entire career … the coaching part for 25-plus years. I always thought every fall there would be football. So to have that taken away because of COVID was unfortunate and understandable.

“Coming back, I have challenged the kids to play every week like it’s the last week of our season. You just never know when this could end again, right?”

When asked why so many players attended this year’s Cardinals camp, Battilana said: “I think we give the kids a good experience and they learn a lot. We’re preparing them for the next level. That’s exciting for them.

“Being off a whole year, though, it should be mentioned that a lot of kids just wanted another opportunity to win the big one (championship). A lot of kids are hungry for that.”

Newman opened the scoring on its first play from scrimmage when Noah Clarke took a handoff from his brother, Evan, and dashed 15 yards into the end zone.

The Titans then added a 32-yard field goal in the second quarter by Leo Kantartzis.

In the third quarter, 6-foot-4 left-hander Stephan Narancic replaced Clarke at quarterback and rolled out to connect with Mark Skerl on an 11-yard scoring strike.

“It feels pretty surreal,” said Skerl, a track and field star whose last contest as a member of the senior team was the championship game of 2019. “It’s been a long time. Football is a real team sport. It’s great to be back on the field and feel the camaraderie.”

Skerl, who captured five OFSAA gold medals and one silver while setting a pair of records in his only two seasons of high school track, continues to excel in that sport. Last weekend, in Hamilton, he impressed with his national U20-level decathlon points total.

“It was just a recreational meet,” Skerl said. “It was to get a score to talk to some universities. Hopefully, I’ll get a scholarship down south. But now, it’s football season. I’m happy.”

Newman struck again in the final minute on Grade 10 running back Noah Clarke’s 1-yard TD plunge. Kantartzis, who also contributed a pass interception, capped the scoring with his third conversion.

“It was sloppy at times but after a year hiatus I thought we did alright,” Battilana said.

Elsewhere, the four-time defending champion St. Thomas More Knights defeated the Bishop Ryan Celtics, 39-9.







Photo by Gerry Graham
Photo by Gerry Graham

Photo by Gerry Graham
Photo by Gerry Graham

Photo by Gerry Graham
Photo by Gerry Graham

Photo by Gerry Graham
Photo by Gerry Graham

Photo by Gerry Graham
Photo by Gerry Graham

Photo by Gerry Graham
Photo by Gerry Graham

Photo by Gerry Graham
Photo by Gerry Graham

Photo by Gerry Graham
Photo by Gerry Graham

Photo by Gerry Graham
Photo by Gerry Graham

Photo by Gerry Graham
Photo by Gerry Graham

Photo by Gerry Graham
Photo by Gerry Graham

Photo by Gerry Graham
Photo by Gerry Graham

Photo by Gerry Graham
Photo by Gerry Graham

Photo by Gerry Graham
Photo by Gerry Graham

Photo by Gerry Graham
Photo by Gerry Graham

Photo by Gerry Graham
Photo by Gerry Graham

Photo by Gerry Graham
Photo by Gerry Graham