By Larry Moko
St. Thomas More Knights’ coach Claudio Silvestri offered no excuses.
His senior high school football team had just suffered a rare loss – 34-33 to the visiting Bishop Ryan Celtics – in an exciting Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic game that went into overtime Friday.
“They were the better team,” Silvestri said. “I give them credit, 100 per cent. They deserved to win.”
The outcome improved BR’s record to 2-1 while dropping the Knights to 1-1. Yes, an ‘L’ for the defending champions. The last time More lost a regular-season game was six years ago against the Cardinal Newman Cardinals (now known as St. John Henry Newman Cardinals).
Since 2016, the Knights have captured five consecutive league titles along with five straight OFSAA Bowl championships. In addition, More was ranked No. 1 in Canada for two years in a row.
“They are a very well-balanced,” Silvestri said of the Celtics. “I knew it would be tough. They have a lot of returning players and a lot of skill.
“We can’t make the mistakes we did against a good team like that and expect to win.”
A clutch 37-yard field goal by Bishop Ryan’s Juan Vasquez with 56 seconds left in the fourth quarter forced the extra session.
In OT, the teams began by trading field goals – an 11-yarder by Matthew Gennacaro of More and from 37 yards by Vasquez.
The Celtics then got a five-yard deflected touchdown pass from quarterback Ryan Harrison to Anthony Ragonetti before More replied with a nine-yard TD carry by Jack Stewart.
More, however, failed to score on its next possession when a field goal try went wide and Matthew Jovanovic ran the ball out from the back of the end zone. The Celtics also missed their three-point attempt from the 27-yard line but it went for a game-winning single.
Said Celtics’ coach Jim Davies: “To come here, to the field of an historic football team, and win speaks a lot about the football program at Bishop Ryan and where it’s at right now.
“They (More) set the standard.”
Bishop Ryan held a 13-9 lead at halftime, thanks to a six-yard run by Anthony Misale and an eight-yard pass reception by slotback/linebacker Sean Underhill who out-fought a defender in the air to come down with the ball.
Underhill and Harrison also connected on a well-executed 30-yard pass play for a touchdown immediately after an interception by teammate Lyric Leo.
“Underhill is a fantastic athlete and leader,” Davies said. “Whatever school lands him next year is getting a real treasure. I know multiple out-of-town universities have communicated with him.”
More’s second-half touchdowns resulted from carries of 56 yards by Gavin Robertson and one yard by Stewart.
Bishop Ryan also conceded a safety touch.
“It was an amazing game,” Harrison said. “We’ve had a crazy rivalry with them for the last couple of years. To get a victory on their turf is a great feeling.
“We stuck together as a team today. At other times maybe we got on ourselves.”
Davies praised the performance of BR’s veteran signal-caller who engineered several impressive drives.
“Ryan has progressed in the last four years I’ve been his coach,” Davies said. “What was different today was his composure, ability to play within himself, and lead.”
In other action, the St. Jean de Brebeuf Braves defeated the St. Mary Crusaders, 44-14, and Newman (2-0) downed the Bishop Tonnos Titans, 30-6. Bishop Ryan, Tonnos and Brebeuf each have 2-1 records.
“Our boys are committed, they play together and they play for each other,” Davies said. “There are quality teams in this league and the championship is up for grabs.”