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