Bowl-bound Canes had no home field
Holy Cross play for Northern Bowl title Thursday in Hamilton
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.
Hurricanes’ Gabe Lemire, left, collides with Griffins’ Ben Hopkins and Max Levasseur during the Kawartha high school senior football final on Nov. 9.