By Larry Moko
Cornerback Alex DiFrancesco of the St. John Henry Newman Cardinals wears an appropriate jersey number on the football field.
It’s No. 6 – as in Pick Six.
DiFrancesco picked off his fourth pass of the season Wednesday and returned it 60 yards for a touchdown to help Newman defeat Burlington’s Nelson Lords 37-0 in a Golden Horseshoe Athletic Conference semifinal.
Earlier in the day, the Bishop Tonnos Titans’ edged the visiting Corpus Christi Longhorns, 22-20, in the other semifinal. That sets up an all Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic GHAC champion game next Tuesday.
“He’s a hard-working kid,” Newman coach Lino Battilana said of DiFrancesco, who doubles as a wide receiver. “It was great to see him finally get a Pick Six in such a big game.”
On two other occasions this season – versus the St. Mary Crusaders and then against the Bishop Tonnos Titans – a DiFrancesco interception and long return ended agonizingly close to the opposition’s goal line.
“It was frustrating to be caught so many times,” DiFrancesco said. “This time was different. I put my head down and didn’t stop running until I got to the red (end zone).”
According to DiFrancesco, in his first game ever playing corner he ran an interception against St. Mary back 50 yards to the 1-yard line.
“My coaches and my buddies will say it’s my lack of speed. In reality, it was the angle (taken by the tackler).
“I’ve worn (No. 6) my whole life, but it had nothing to do with football.”
Newman dominated throughout against the Halton Public champions. Pressure by the Cardinals’ defence led to an interception by defensive end Nick Garcia on Nelson’s first series of downs.
Although Newman didn’t score on that turnover, it did capitalize on the next when the Nelson punter couldn’t handle the snap well enough to kick the ball. A 26-yard swing pass from Lucas Barresi to Jordan Aidan then set the stage for a two-yard TD run by Barresi.
“It’s a huge plus when you can convert a turnover,” Battilana said. “It motivates the kids.”
The Cardinals padded their lead in the first quarter on a 58-yard pass-and-run touchdown from Barresi to Garcia.
Said Battilana, “Great speed for a big man.”
A 16-yard pass reception by Nolan Methot then moved Newman into position for a one-yard touchdown plunge by Barrisi.
The Cardinals led 30-0 at the half.
In the third quarter, Barresi completed the scoring by tossing a 12-yard touchdown pass to Shane Wismer.
Leo Kantartzis converted all five touchdowns and the home team conceded a two-point safety.
“We were super motivated,” DiFrancesco said. “The team that we showed last week isn’t who we are.”
Newman lost the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic title game last Friday, 13-7, to Bishop Tonnos.
“We’re excited to play Bishop Tonnos again,” the Newman coach said. “It’s great for our league.”
The winner of the GHAC final advances to the Golden Horseshoe Bowl against an opponent from SOSSA on Nov. 29 in Guelph. It will one of nine games that are part of the OFSAA Football Bowl Series.