Celtics secure football victory

BR debutes first female football coach in HWCDSB history
Posted on 09/25/2023
BR football player

By Larry Moko

It was a significant day for women in football when the Bishop Ryan Celtics played host to the St. Jean de Brébeuf Braves Friday.

For the first time in Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic high school football history, the head referee was a female – Taylor Mickleboro.

Outside of high school, the 27-year-old has extensive officiating experience, including in the Ontario university ranks where she served as a back judge or side judge.

“That’s why I’m here taking pictures,” Mickleboro’s mother, Judy, said from her sideline seat. “It’s her first white hat.”

The senior game also featured the home-field debut of Bishop Ryan’s defensive halfbacks coach, Alisa van Veen. At 28, she’s a BR alum and LTO teacher serving in her first year on a high school football team’s coaching staff.

“As far as I know, she’s the first female to coach in the league,” Celtics coach Jim Davies said. “It’s what we need to break the glass ceiling.”

Bishop Ryan defeated Brébeuf, 16-0, and it was largely due to the performance of the team’s defensive backs. The Celtics intercepted three passes (Kyler Bailey-Johnson, Matthew Jovanovic, Justice Umelo) and got a deep pass knockdown by Nico DiFilippo.

“Our defence was strong … we held them to zero points,” said Bailey-Johnson, whose pick in the end zone denied the Braves a first-quarter score despite their march to the 9-yard line.

The Celtics (2-0) also won by shutout last week – 10-0 over the St. Mary Crusaders. And according to the players, van Veen has “been doing a great job.”

Said Bailey-Johnson: “She has played flag football (with Team Ontario and McMaster women), so that’s her experience. She’s doing a lot on the side to help the team. It’s been awesome.”

With the score 2-0 on a conceded second-quarter safety touch, Bishop Ryan struck for its first touchdown on a two-yard sweep by Anthony Misale. That came with only seven minutes remaining.

Umelo’s 15-yard interception return then provided the insurance with 32 seconds on the clock. Luca Horvat added converts for both majors.

“That was a dog fight right down to the end,” Brébeuf coach Phil Iannone said. “The score wasn’t really indicative of how close it was. I thought both teams played a hard, physical game.”

It was Brébeuf’s first action of the regular schedule.

On offence, the Celtics got big gains of 26 and 32 yards on passes from quarterback Benjamin Bowden to wide receiver Mac Moore. Both times, Bowden jumped for the ball while closely guarded and impressively managed to come down with the reception.

Ben Kingston was the other favourite target for Bowden. He caught four passes for 68 yards.

The Braves defence also made three interceptions – by Dante Dos Santos, Jonah Glueheisen and Jackson Wilson.

After participating in 5-on-5 flag football as a youngster, van Veen played 10-on-10 “contact flag” at university. And that, she says, helped her develop more of a feel for spacing and play calls in the tackle game.

Said van Veen: “As much as I know, there’s a lot to learn as well.”

Elsewhere, the St. Thomas More Knights downed the Cathedral Gaels, 55-0, and the Bishop Tonnos Titans topped the St. Mary Crusaders, 46-0.

BR football playerBishop Ryan’s defensive halfbacks coach, Alisa van Veen. SJB football playersBR and SJB football playersHead referee, Taylor Mickleboro. Photos by Bob Butrym/RFB Sport Photography

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