Knights honour one of their own in football

Knights honour one of their own in Friday Night Football action
Posted on 10/24/2023
STM football player

By Larry Moko

The St. Thomas More Knights paid tribute to the memory of Mark Bistoyong by playing their senior high school football game in his honour Friday.

Bistoyong was tragically killed last July 2 at the age of 16. He had been a member of More’s junior team in previous years and was in training to join the senior squad.

All the More cheerleaders along with coaches and many of the fans wore special black tops with ‘Bistoyong’ and his No. ‘20’ prominently displayed.

Players from both teams lined up side-by-side before the opening kickoff near the stands while a moment of silence was observed. Then, when the game began, Bistoyong’s white helmet and jersey were on the bench with the More team.

The Knights went on to defeat the visiting St. Mary Crusaders, 34-3.

“Especially the beginning was very emotional for everyone,” Knights coach Claudio Silvestri said.

“The loss of Mark had such a profound impact on all of us – the team, the coaches and the school community. We’re still hurting. To have this honour for Mark meant a lot to all of us.”

Claire Burke helped organize the event. She’s a teacher/coach at More and her husband, Joe, is a long-time Knights football assistant coach.

“With Mark’s untimely passing we felt we had to come together,” Burke said. “So, we did.”

Burke explained that the Oct. 20 game date was chosen for a reason.

“Mark was seven weeks premature,” she said. “He was born Sept. 11. He was supposed to be born on Oct. 20. That’s the reason he wore No. 20, because it was very significant for the family (parents Merl and Rino).”

The GoFundMe page set up in honour of Mark direct contributions to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit of McMaster Children’s Hospital.

More is also raising funds towards that same cause through the sale of T-shirts, hoodies and wristbands.

“I taught Mark personally,” Burke said. “In 20 years, I’ve never met a kid like him. He was larger than life on this team, in the school and in the community.

“He lit up every room he walked in to. He was an amazing young man.”

Bistoyong also wrestled and was a regular in the More weightlifting room where off-season training began in January.

Said Burke: “Mark was a role model in the weight room. He had a work ethic that was unparallel.”

Lineman and team captain Mason Giovannangeli said he first met Mark through city hockey, but their bond started because of More football.

“He was always in the weight room,” Giovannangeli said. “He was probably one of the strongest kids I’ve ever seen for his size. It was intimidating, kind of, to see him in there. He was a very nice guy.”

According to Burke, Bistoyong’s helmet and jersey will be permanently on display in a plastic case in the More weight room.

“He was a phenomenal athlete,” Burke said. “He was as fit as a human could be at 16 years of age.”

In game action Friday, the Crusaders got on the scoreboard first by way of Bernardo Nichele’s 22-yard field goal.

The Knights then replied with a spinning, tackle-breaking, 70-yard touchdown run by Jeremy Lemieux. Adrian Klindzic Dovial added the convert and before halftime booted a 30-yard field goal.

Two interceptions by Jonathan Makarski highlighted St. Mary’s defensive performance.

In the second half, Caleb Kowalchuk ran for a six-yard touchdown and returned an interception 30 yards for a major score. That was followed by a 22-yard field goal by Klindzic Dovial and a 15-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Avery Belgrave to wide receiver Christian Chukwuali.

The win against 0-5 St. Mary improved More’s record in the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic standings to 4-1.

In other action, the St. John Henry Newman Cardinals defeated the St. Jean de Brébeuf Braves, 54-0, and the Bishop Ryan Celtics topped the Cathedral Gaels, 40-6. The first-place Bishop Tonnos Titans were idle.

STM football playerSTM and Mary football playersSTM and Mary football playersSTM football playersMary football playersPhotos by Bob Butrym/RFB Sport Photography