Crusaders defeat Gaels in Sr. Football action

Crusaders defeat Gaels in Sr. Football action
Posted on 10/30/2023
St. Mary and CHS football players

By Larry Moko

The St. Mary Crusaders and Cathedral Gaels have reached the mid-way point of their “eight-quarter” senior high school football game.

The visiting Crusaders defeated the Gaels 36-2 Friday, marking the final game of the 2023 Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic regular-season schedule.

But on Monday, Nov. 6, when playoffs kick off, the same two teams will be facing each other in a Tier II semifinal.

The league’s top four teams – Bishop Tonnos Titans, St. John Henry Newman Cardinals, St. Thomas More Knights and Bishop Ryan Celtics -- will compete in playoffs, too, for the Tier I title. Their semifinals are Friday, Nov. 3.

“We’ll play Cathedral at our school next,” St. Mary coach Sean Dennison said. “So, this was the fourth quarter of an eight-quarter game.”

The winner of the Tier II semifinal then advances to take on the fifth-place St. Jean de Brebeuf Braves who received an opening-round playoff bye.

St. Mary fell behind 2-0 on the first series from scrimmage when a high snap back to the punter sailed into the end zone for a safety touch.

The Crusaders replied early in the second quarter when Michael Borota punted a 35-yard single. That was followed by two consecutive long, well-thrown touchdown passes by Borota. The first, to Justin Ledrew, covered 24 yards and the second, to Bernardo Nichele went for 31 yards.

“We really got our scheme to work against these guys,” Borota said. “We saw on film that they were weak up top and if we got the chance we would air it out on them.

“It was really nice to finally get something clicking. We’ve been struggling all year.”

Adam Harrington rushed for a three-yard touchdown just before halftime and Ledrew returned a punt down the sideline for a 40-yard TD. It was the second 30-yard-plus punt runback for Ledrew, who plays slot back and defensive back.

“Justin is a great athlete and a super-coachable kid,” Dennison said. “I don’t get to talk to him much, though, because he’s always on the field.

“He’s a young Grade 11 kid, but he figures stuff out.”

Nichele, who booted four converts and a kickoff single, also connected for two field goals – from 31 yards and 18 yards.

John Macgillivary provided two standout plays for the Gaels. On defence, he picked off a pass and, as a receiver, he made an outstanding catch for a 30-yard gain.

Said Dennison: “This Cathedral team works so hard. I have a lot of respect for the effort they gave today.”

Borota, who played summer football as an H-back for the Hamilton Varsity Tiger-Cats, was taking part in the final regular-season game of his high school career.

“We really pride ourselves on playing the best possible football we can,” Borota said. “We try to hang around (stay competitive) with the big teams, but that Tier II championship really means a lot to us as a school and as a program.”

Dennison said he’s in favour of having separate Tier I and Tier II championships.

“We get to play a few more weeks of football,” he said. “It’s a great experience. Our league is challenging every week.”

In other action, defending champion Tonnos completed an undefeated season with a 43-6 decision over Brébeuf (2-4), while Newman (5-1) secured second place with a 32-9 victory over More (4-2).

St. Mary and CHS football playersSt. Mary and CHS football playersSt. Mary and CHS football playersSt. Mary football playerCHS football player kicking ballPhotos by Bob Butrym/RFB Sport Photography