Bowl-bound Canes had no home field

Holy Cross play for Northern Bowl ti­tle Thurs­day in Hamil­ton

The Peterborough Examiner - - SPORTS - MIKE DAVIES EX­AM­INER SPORTS DI­REC­TOR [email protected]­ter­bor­ough­daily.com

The Holy Cross Hur­ri­canes se­nior foot­ball squad was a team with­out a home in 2019 but it didn’t stop them from hav­ing the best year in school history.

A first Kawartha se­nior cham­pi­onship was fol­lowed by a first COSSA se­nior ti­tle. On Thurs­day at Ron Joyce Sta­dium at McMaster Univer­sity in Hamil­ton the Hur­ri­canes will try to add an OFSAA Bowl ti­tle to their col­lec­tion.

They’ll face Sault Ste. Marie’s Ko­rah Colts in the Northern Bowl at 3:30 p.m. It will be the last foot­ball game played in Canada in 2019 and will be livestream­ed through a link on the OFSAA web­site.

The Hur­ri­canes an­tic­i­pated play­ing on a brand new turf field this sea­son but a de­lay in ob­tain­ing per­mits post­poned the ground­break­ing un­til Au­gust. The field, which is re­plac­ing the former grass field, is ex­pected to be ready for the fall of 2020, said Hur­ri­canes head coach Bond Bjor­gan.

So this year the team had no home field. They used an empty field be­hind school porta­bles for prac­tice but also trav­elled to Flem­ing Col­lege and the Kins­men Civic Cen­tre. They played their home games at the Thomas A. Ste­wart Ath­letic Field or on their op­po­nent’s fields.

“We have a great league with a lot of good coaches who are all will­ing to work with each other,” said Hur­ri­canes co-coach Chris Paige.

“No one minded giv­ing up their home field to us for a lit­tle bit. Credit to all the other teams for al­low­ing us to use their fields when we could.”

“It’s not op­ti­mal, for sure, be­cause a lot of what you do in foot­ball is tim­ing and spac­ing, run­ning two foot­ball teams on a small area with no field mark­ings but you use the cards you’re dealt,” said Bjor­gan. “A lot of foot­ball does come down to a small space any­ways so we were able to work on our tackling and some fun­da­men­tals that were very im­por­tant for our suc­cess.”

It might have re­moved a few dis­trac­tions be­ing away from the stu­dent body but Bjor­gan said he’d rather have the home field.

Still, the play­ers felt it added to team unity.

“Us vic­tory lap kids were look­ing for­ward to play­ing our last year on a nice new field only to find out they hadn’t even started con­struc­tion,” said fifth-year player Burke Banile­vic.

“That got us an­gry but we still man­aged. It doesn’t mat­ter where we play, it mat­ters who we are with. We were able to be with guys we knew and were able to be more fam­ily with. For the kids who took the time to go to the other fields it made us see who was re­ally ded­i­cated.”

“We al­ways had fun rides to get to prac­tices,” said Grade 11 player Hay­den McIl­moyle. “It wasn’t easy on our par­ents and coaches. It was a dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence. I felt like I got more con­nected to my team than I ever have be­fore.”

Ko­rah won its OFSAA Bowl last year and hasn’t lost a game in two sea­sons. Both teams have film of the other.

“They’re a well-coached pro­gram and it seems like they do a full year of foot­ball whether it’s off-sea­son train­ing or a June com­bine,” Paige said.

“They ob­vi­ously take foot­ball very se­ri­ously. They have a big of­fen­sive line, big run­ning backs and a lot of fifth years. We’re look­ing for­ward to the chal­lenge.”

It will be the big­gest stage any of the play­ers have played on.

“We’re like a lit­tle home­town school no­body knows about,” Banile­vic said.

“We don’t have any big name kids. We’re the un­der­dogs and al­ways have been. We’re like the school that shouldn’t make it to any­thing be­cause we’re a small school with not enough kids. It was nice to be able to make it and prove to ev­ery­one small schools can do the same things as big schools.”

“We want to show what Peter­bor­ough has and show th­ese big schools we can com­pete,” McIl­moyle said.

“I think our kids for the most part are just ex­cited,” Bjor­gan said.

“I know once you get on the field some of that pe­riph­eral nose goes away and it’s just a game again once you get started. The lead-up will be ex­cit­ing for our kids. Some of our kids haven’t played any­where but in Peter­bor­ough. To be able to play out of town against a re­ally strong team from the Soo to test just how good we are.

“It’s the chal­lenge we want. We are good in our re­gion but how do we com­pare against the best in the prov­ince.”

Paige is happy for Bjor­gan who has been with the Holy Cross pro­gram since its in­cep­tion in 2002.

“Bond has had a lot of hard work go into this pro­gram from the get-go. He would never say it but I think it means a lot for him, too, be­cause he’s been do­ing this short-handed for a long, long time,” Paige said.

CLIF­FORD SKARSTEDT EX­AM­INER FILE PHOTO

Hur­ri­canes’ Gabe Lemire, left, col­lides with Griffins’ Ben Hop­kins and Max Levasseur dur­ing the Kawartha high school se­nior foot­ball fi­nal on Nov. 9.

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