Titans win senior football championship

Titans win senior football championship
Posted on 11/14/2023
BT football team

By Larry Moko

When a spectacular game-opening kickoff return touchdown was called back because of a penalty, it didn’t faze the Bishop Tonnos Titans.

Tonnos still managed to grab a comfortable early lead en route to a 33-23 victory over the St. John Henry Newman Cardinals at the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic high school championship football game Friday.

It was the second-straight year the Titans have defeated the Cardinals for the league title.

“It was an obvious hold,” Tonnos coach Anthony Tassone said of Jackson Taylor’s long disallowed dash into the end zone. “It is what it is. I’m happy the way the team responded after that. We moved the ball well. We didn’t let it hold us back.”

The win improved Tonnos’ regular season and playoff record to 8-0. Up next, the Titans will host a Golden Horseshoe Athletic Conference semifinal on Wednesday against the Halton Public champion Nelson Lords.

Newman, too, moves on to a GHAC semifinal Wednesday. The Cardinals (6-2) travel to Burlington to take on the Halton Catholic champion Corpus Christi Longhorns.

At stake for all four teams is an OFSAA Bowl Festival berth on Nov. 28 in Windsor.

A year ago, Tonnos won OFSAA’s Golden Horseshoe Bowl crown in Guelph.

“I think we’re a more mature team this year,” Tassone said. “Last year we were trying to figure out how to win it. This year we sort of know how.

“But sometimes, when you’re the hunted it’s a little different than when you’re hunting. So we’ve had to adjust to that.”

Running back Elliot Blake rushed for two Tonnos touchdowns while the other TDs went to receivers Trey Montour and Taylor.

Francesco Romano also contributed a 14-yard field goal plus four converts.

Newman, which trailed 33-7 in the fourth quarter, got touchdowns catches by Alex DiFrancesco and Markus Palermo along with a rushing touchdown by Macauley Wellstead.

Wellstead also hauled in a two-point conversion pass from quarterback Jamie Barresi.

Adams Yusuph chipped in with three converts.

“We are a team that can put up points, but we’re also a very good defensive team,” Tassone said.

“We believe our linebackers are some of the strongest in the province and our defensive backs are outstanding. They created a lot of those sack coverages.”

Tonnos got on the scoreboard first when Newman punter Kymarri Smith conceded a safety touch. Then, on its next possession, Tonnos quarterback Ryan Begadon tossed a quick pass to Montour who broke a tackle and raced for a 55-yard touchdown.

Newman replied with a 20-yard touchdown strike from Barresi to DiFrancesco.

Tonnos then recovered a fumbled punt at the Newman 40-yard line to set up a two-yard off-tackle carry for a touchdown by Blake.

Romano’s field goal with 0.0 seconds showing on the clock gave the Titans a 19-7 advantage at halftime.

Tonnos increased the score to 26-3 when Taylor grabbed a 15-yard toss from Begadon. “It was a great ball,” Taylor said. “Ryan threw it to the back of the end zone where only I could get it. I just made the catch like I’m supposed to.”

Blake’s hard-charging 38-yard run set up his second touchdown of the game – from four yards. At times during the contest he appeared to move the pile and refuse to go down.

“They ran the ball really well,” Newman coach Lino Battilana said. “(Blake) is a low runner and that is tough for any team to tackle. He fought for yards. He’s a great player.”

Said Tassone: “Elliot doesn’t let his size get in the way. He’s a tough player to stop once he gets going. Our line has done a really good job of allowing the little creases that he needs.”

Newman’s late comeback started when Barresi hooked up with Palermo for a 13-yard touchdown pass. Wellstead’s five-yard touchdown run and two-point conversion then capped the scoring with one minute remaining.

“Our offence struggled,” Battilana said, “but we put together some drives near the end. We’ve got to build on that for next week when we play Corpus Christi.”

Last year at GHAC semifinals, Newman topped Nelson and Tonnos edged Corpus Christi. Then, in the final, the Titans got past the Cardinals.

Taylor, who doubles as a corner on defence, says it’s a satisfying feeling to repeat as Catholic league champions.

“We put in a lot of work in the off season,” he said. “We train together during the summer and the winter. We’ve bonded on this team. It’s like a brotherhood.”

The win by Tonnos was its fourth straight over Newman since mid-way through the 2022 campaign.Newman and BT football gameNewman and BT football gameNewman football playerBT football playerBT football team Photos by Bob Butrym/RFB Sport Photography