FIVE. MORE.

Canada’s top-ranked high school foot­ball team wins its fifth straight OFSAA Bowl cham­pi­onship

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - Steve Mil­ton

Af­ter the first week of the sea­son when the St. Thomas More Knights were ranked, yet again, as the top high school foot­ball team in Canada, the coach­ing staff made a rule that there would be no more men­tion about it. They can talk about it now.

The Knights rode their trade­mark de­fence to crush the Wind­sor Her­man Green Griffins, the coun­try’s sev­enth-ranked team, 27-0, at McMaster’s Ron Joyce Sta­dium on Wed­nes­day to win the Golden Horse­shoe Bowl, at the three-day OFSAA Foot­ball Bowl Se­ries. It was STM’s fifth con­sec­u­tive OFSAA cham­pi­onship.

The re­sult al­most cer­tainly guar­an­tees that St. Thomas More, 11-0 on the sea­son, will fin­ish with its third con­sec­u­tive No. 1 na­tional rank­ing on the na­tional high school web­site canadafoot­balchat.com.

It was a dom­i­nant win over a strong team that also came into Wed­nes­day’s game at 10-0 and had outscored its post-sea­son op­po­nents by a col­lec­tive 139-34 mar­gin. The Knights, who had sim­i­larly outscored Cathe­dral, Car­di­nal New­man and Burling­ton Nel­son by a cu­mu­la­tive 130-31 af­ter romp­ing through the Hamil­ton Catholic League, won a bowl game at the de facto provin­cial cham­pi­onships for the fifth straight year.

It was the sixth time this sea­son their de­fence had pitched a shutout.

“As an of­fence, we have so much con­fi­dence that our de­fence is go­ing to make the stop,” said Knights re­ceiver Janeil Gor­don, who caught two touch­down passes from quar­ter­back Evan Hil­lock, in­clud­ing a 49-yarder in the first quar­ter. “We know they’re go­ing to shut it down for us.”

On a cold and windy af­ter­noon, the Knights es­sen­tially put the game away dur­ing a five-minute stretch strad­dling the first and sec­ond quar­ters when they piled up 21 points, ini­ti­ated by Gor­don’s first ma­jor. Joey Fu­cia­relli made the first pick-six in­ter­cep­tion of his high school ca­reer and on the en­su­ing kick­off his team­mates forced a turnover that led to Gor­don’s sec­ond TD re­cep­tion.

“It was a great feel­ing, I just kept look­ing at the end zone and think­ing, touch­down, touch­down,” Fu­cia­relli said amid his ju­bi­lant team­mates. “Our de­fence is like a fam­ily. We’re like a brick.”

Knights head coach Clau­dio Sil­vestri said de­fence has been the “heart and soul” of all the great St. Thomas More teams. “They al­ways hold things to­gether un­til our of­fence gets rolling and it was lights out de­fence again to­day, and against a very tal­ented of­fen­sive squad. It’s easy to win when you hold them to zero and our de­fence has been do­ing that for years.”

St. Thomas More rang up 374 net of­fen­sive yards, led by Juwaun Smith’s 105 on the ground. It held Her­man — coached by leg­end Harry Lum­ley, who’s spent 50 years in high school foot­ball — to just 150 yards, most of it on a soli­tary long drive. Knights de­fen­sive back Jaylen Smith, Juwaun’s twin brother, was named the player of the game.

Af­ter the Golden Horse­shoe Bowl, and each of the other eight bowls that com­prise the three-day fes­ti­val, play­ers from both sides were sur­rounded by a swarm of scouts from Cana­dian uni­ver­si­ties.

Or­ga­niz­ers ac­cred­ited 100 foot­ball staff mem­bers from 16 U Sports schools, in­clud­ing all 11 from the OUA.

Even Her­man Col­lege from Prince Ed­ward Is­land was there.

Sil­vestri had 17 fifth-year play­ers on his team and said a num­ber of them knew they were headed to play U Sports foot­ball and had re­turned for a fi­nal high school sea­son in or­der to bet­ter pre­pare them­selves.

Jamie Bar­resi, the Hamil­ton na­tive who was the Tiger-Cats’ of­fen­sive co-or­di­na­tor in 2004-05 and has been head coach of the Ot­tawa Gee Gees since ’13, said More had at least a dozen grad­u­at­ing se­niors who are U Sports-cal­i­bre play­ers. “They even have some kids just up from ju­nior I’d take right now,” he said.

But there are also scores of other elite play­ers in this fes­ti­val, which is why so many U Sports re­cruiters de­scend on it ev­ery year.

“Ev­ery­body comes here for this and you can see how the play­ers you’ve scouted com­pare,” Bar­resi says.

“You’ve usu­ally seen all the kids be­fore, but there was one year we got eight kids out of the OFSAA Bowls that we didn’t know about and they all turned out to be re­ally good play­ers for us.”

Sil­vestri adds that, “There are a lot of dy­namic kids out there. All the best teams from all the re­gions in On­tario. It’s a great show­case. If I were a scout, this is where I’d be.”

He’s usu­ally there any­way.

PHO­TOS BY GARY YOKOYAMA THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

St. Thomas More’s Fola Adeniyi de­nies Wind­sor’s Her­man Moore Griffins Vyshonne Janusas a touch­down catch with one of many timely hits and big scor­ing plays as the Knights won their fifth straight OFSAA Bowl, 27-0, on Wed­nes­day at McMaster Uni­ver­sity.

The side­lines were teem­ing with uni­ver­sity foot­ball scouts from across Canada as the Na­tion’s No. 1 ranked St. Thomas More Knights played No. 7 Her­man Moore Griffins from Wind­sor in the Golden Horse­shoe Bowl.

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