Newman heads to football championship

Newman heads to football championship
Posted on 11/06/2023
Newman football player

By Larry Moko

The St. John Henry Newman Cardinals ‘blew past’ their opponent to open the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic high school football playoffs.

On a wind-swept afternoon, the second-place Cardinals defeated the third-place St. Thomas More Knights, 26-5, in a senior semifinal Friday. In the other semifinal, the first-place Bishop Tonnos Titans topped the fourth-place Bishop Ryan Celtics, 51-13.

So, for the second consecutive year, Newman will be travelling to Tonnos to face the Titans for the league championship. It’s scheduled for Friday, Nov. 10 at 4 p.m.

A key contributor to Newman’s victory was left-footed kicker Adams Yusuph, who booted three field goals, three singles and two conversions. Two of those field goals (from 40 and 43 yards) were assisted by a strong breeze at his back. The other successful three-pointer, however, was into the teeth of the wind.

And to further exemplify Yusuph’s leg strength, one of his kickoffs scored a point even though the Cardinals teed it up 10 yards further back than usual.

Newman’s other points came by way of a pair of touchdown runs – 43 yards in the second quarter by quarterback Lucas Barresi and four yards in the fourth quarter by Macauley Wellstead.

“Wind was a significant part of the game,” More coach Claudio Silvestri said. “I think they probably did a better job adapting to it than we did.

“We had the momentum early, but we let it slip away. We just needed that one big play and it never materialized.”

The visitors from More got on the scoreboard first when Newman – pinned deep by the kickoff and a quarterback sack -- conceded a safety touch on the third play from scrimmage.

The only other points for the Knights came on the final play of the first half when Adrian Klindzic-Dovial connected for a 22-yard field goal. That was set up by Lamar Johnson’s block of Kymarri Smith’s punt and it made the score 15-5.

“We knew the wind was going to be a huge factor,” Newman coach Lino Battilana said. “So our strategy was around when we should take the wind. I think it paid off.”

When More was attempting to rally in the fourth quarter, they were heading into the wind.

Yusuph, who saw two-way duty at linebacker and running back, also plays for the Newman soccer team.

“Adams was able to convert all but one (field goal attempt) today,” Battilana said. “He has a strong leg. He’s the ultimate team player. He’s a linebacker and, on offence, runs the ball as much as we ask him to.”

The longest run of the day was Barresi’s tackle-breaking touchdown carry down the sideline.

“That was a busted play,” the Newman coach said. “He knows how to address those plays with his legs. He’s hard to stop.”

More’s quarterback, Avery Belgrave, also rushed effectively on designed runs. He carried for a total of 50 yards on one third-quarter drive alone before having a pass intercepted in the end zone by Smith.

Belgrave was pressured much of the time, though, and was sacked on numerous occasions by defensive ends Nick Garcia and Ross Emokopae.

“Our defence played really well,” Battilana said.

Emokopae recovered a fumble, while his teammates Liam Butler and Josh Kronemeyer, had a sack and an interception, respectively.

“We practised hard,” Yusuph said. “We knew they were a run-heavy team. So, we built around that. We were ready for everything.”

Caleb Kowalchuk and Giocomo Pugliese had an interception each for More.

Newman defeated More, 32-9, a week ago to finish ahead of the Knights in the final standings and get home field advantage.

Said Silvestri: “They have a good team. They were tough last week, and they were tough this week. We had our chances.”

Silvestri is in his 28th year of coaching, mostly alongside More coordinators Rob Fuciarelli and Joe Burke.

“This was a young group,” Silvestri said of the 2023 Knights. “It was one of our favourite years of coaching.”

Newman football playerSTM and Newman football playersNewman football playersNewman and STM football playerNewman football playerPhotos by Bob Butrym/RFB Sport Photography