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Spartans Achieve Perfection
Nov. 18, 2017
Spartans Achieve Perfection
With a cold November rain and wind whipping across the pristine turf of Centennial Stadium, the Lorne Park Spartans finished the job, completing a perfect season with a hard fought 35 - 9 victory over St. Marcellinus on Thursday. The win completed a sweep for the Football program in 2017 and a return to the podium for the first time for the Junior program in 5 years. The Spartans marched on to the field with the confidence of a team that knew it was good and knew it was ready for the big stage. As they waited on the 45 for their opponent to join them, the team felt at home at the Stadium. As the starting lineups were called out, with varying auditory success, the Spartans were relaxed and anxious to finally play ball.
As is the case sometimes, the score was not representative of the competitiveness of the final, as long time rival St. Marcellinus were well prepared for the game. The Spartan offense got off to a slow start with a turnover on the first series but there was no panic on the Spartan sideline, as the confidence of a great regular season calmed everyone's nerves. The pass rush of Marcellinus was a significant issue for the Spartans, but superb offensive line play from Carter Parsons, Zander Castro Wiese, Dougal Graham and Liam Ventresca helped settle things and let the offense get its balance. One of the key moments in the game came early, as the offense drove the length of the field, taking nearly the entire first quarter for a score. It helped calm the nerves and the team settled into the familiar position of being in front, as they did not trail in a game this season. The gusting winds definitely slowed down the high flying passing attack of the Spartans but the superb blocking of Ben "big shoes" Rendeiro and Francis St. Onge helped the team gain ground on the drive. But as is the always the case in winning football, big players make big plays in big games and the Spartans big players, Nolan Dillingham, Liam Bowman and Chey Charles simply refused to lose, it was clear to everyone at the game. Each had a touchdown for but it was the effort and drive they showed on every play, fighting for yards, taking on significant contact without losing the ball and scorching the defense when a seam appeared was the difference maker. Dillingham simply dominated the defense with his runs, finishing off each with the physicality that is so rare for a qb but a trademark of the Lorne Park quarterback and gameday captain. Chey Charles once again showed why he is a key component of the offense with his smooth running style and his leadership on the field, his confidence and swag was contagious for the offense and it gave them an edge that is often missing from that side of the ball. And as Coach Moynihan knew, Nate "six" DeMontagnac had a huge touchdown catch for the Spartans. No one on the team is more money in the endzone than Nate and he had a highlight catch, fighting off pass interference to come up with the touchdown catch. The second half was a struggle for the team, as it was down two offensive linemen but solid work from Jacob Kacira and Mayar Turunji kept things going ok for the team. It was a terrific full game performance by the offense.
The defense had its hands full as well, with a motivated Marcellinus team who were driven to make up for the earlier season loss to Lorne Park. They came out running out of a power formation, giving the Spartans D some fits as they had not played a team all season that controlled the line of scrimmage. But the defense was up for the challenge, they responded with calm confidence and bone rattling tackles from half backs Noel Hancocks and Max Ramsay. The biggest change in the second matchup was having to control QB Chad Owens on the turf, his speed and cuts were a major challenge for the linebackers but they kept Owens under wraps and were able to keep Marcellinus off the scoreboard in the first half. Max Henry and Liam Jeewan had the unenviable task of not over pursuing and they did their job admirably. Jeewan also shone in pass coverage, making two fantastic plays on passes in the second half, to stop a drive that unfortunately was extended through penalties and flags, putting Marcellinus on the goalline. It would be the only score of the game for the opponent. The defense came up huge time and time again, showing resilience after giving up yardage and tightening up as they moved closer to their own endzone. The series of the game was a goalline stand in the fourth quarter, with a terrific pass breakup by Aaron Aria and great penetration by the defensive line. The secondary kept the passing game under control, giving up short passes but never a deep play. The defense simply accomplished what they did all season, providing the ball to the offense with good field position and stops all game.
The championship was won with top performance in all three areas, offense, defense and special teams. Chey Charles absolutely buried Marcellinus with his booming kickoffs, and the kick off team followed each up with perfect breakdown and wrap up. The kickoff return team, put away all onside kick attempts with confident hands and thankfully one quick whistle. St. Onge went perfect on point afters, one being an absolutely terrific effort by holder DeMontagnac and St. Onge to convert on a tough snap; and on the back breaking play of the game, Liam Bowman and the punt return team, absolutely put the dagger in, with a 110 yard punt return, a run that electrified the crowd and the team. Bowman's acceleration and vision and a monster clean block from LB Mason Tonks resulted in the play of the game, with a lone Marcellinus player who managed to track Bowman down, but was unable to react to the cuts he made in the final 20 yards.
The boys earned this championship. Starting in April of last year with the lbs, dbs and wrs practicing for and playing in two seven on seven tournaments; with the returning tens putting in work the last week of August; with every day of practice, every moment of fitness; lunch time meetings/practices and with their commitment to the program.
A special notice must also go to the superb coaching staff that makes the team the machine it has become. Offensive coordinator Mike Parsons was the mastermind behind the high powered offense all season and his football knowledge, coaching ability, and positive attitude was a huge part of the team's success all season. Wide receivers coach Milos Arsic created a tough, skilled group of receivers who knew their job, could run tight routes, block effectively and catch the ball when it needed to be caught. Offensive line coach David Rukavina, a long time coach and friend of the program at Lorne Park, absolutely saved the day by coming in to coach the absolutely vital position of offensive line. Simply put, the team would not have been able to win without his help. On the defensive side of the ball, linebacker coach Brian English had a squad that was flowed to the ball, could drop into pass coverage and who hit with aggression, his work with them and the punt return team was crucial. And on the defensive line, coach Brian Van Alstine created a group who could hold the line with power or speed to the quarterback. His football on a stick was also a great addition to every practice. Running a successful program without these men volunteering their time and expertise, simply is not possible. A coach could not ask for a better coaching staff.
A huge thank you as well to the team photographer and all around superstar for the program Christina Birch who made all the additional aspects of being on the team, from swag to fundraisers to the pictures for these stories happen.
In a lunch time meeting in the lecture hall in June, Dillingham, a receiver in Grade 9, agreed to take on the responsibility of being quarterback, with a guarantee from Coach Moynihan that it would mean he would lead us to a ROPSSAA championship and Dillingham fulfilled this guarantee. It was the goal from the banquet the previous year and hard work and dedication made sure the talent of the team was not wasted.
Having said all this, the season is not over for the Junior Spartans! With the ROPSSAA title, comes an invitation to the Junior Metro Bowl, a playoff of the best junior teams in Southern Ontario. The Spartans now play in the quarterfinals taking on Nelson High School in the Cage at Lorne Park at 1:00pm on Tuesday, November 21. The team would love for fans of the team to come out and cheer them against the talented team from Burlington.