The local tandem, who many people feel will go head to head on Nov. 3 in the city final, both appeared to be in near mid-season form, posting impressive victories as the 2012 SDSSAA campaign opened on Tuesday at the James Jerome Sports Complex.
Notre-Dame Alouettes 33, Lively Hawks 16
No quarterback in the city is filling bigger shoes than Notre Dame pivot Pat Lemieux. But if the smooth-throwing southpaw was unnerved by all the pressure, it sure didn't show in his debut as a starter.
Lemieux connected on a pair of second quarter touchdown strikes with Kevin Lavoie (43 and 12 yards), stepping aside for back-up Dan Lamoureux in the later stages as the Als cruised to victory.
After a scoreless opening quarter, Notre-Dame struck for 26 unanswered points over the next 15 minutes, largely on the strength of a handful of big plays.
In the center of it all was CND safety Marcus Britt, who returned an interception 47 yards, giving his team outstanding field position. He also darted 53 yards on a punt return to the end zone as the ball took a decidedly Notre-Dame bounce, carrying back over the bulk of the Lively coverage team as Britt faced nothing but open field upon catching the ball in full stride.
"It's a great way to start the year," Britt said. "(Defensive coaches) Dean (Paquette) and Cory (Legault) bring a good aspect to the game, and our depth certainly creates a challenge."
The Alouettes added to their advantage in quarter three when Lemieux hooked up with Jonathan Landry from 20 yards out, offsetting a 32-yard Lively field goal courtesy of Scott Friesen.
Trailing 33-3 entering the fourth quarter, the Hawks showed signs of what is to come, with Grade 11 QB Hunter Holub helping to guide a late rally.
Holub carried for 20 yards and threaded the needle to Billy Kosar on a 23-yard, pass-and-run play before calling his own number, once again, from three yards out to narrow the gap to 33-10.
With less than four minutes remaining, Friesen crossed the line from the one, closing the scoring as Matteo Vigna from Notre-Dame converted four majors, kicked a 31-yard field goal and added a rouge on a kickoff while Friesen converted one of two Lively touchdowns.
All in all, Hawks' head coach Reg Bonin was generally pleased with his team, which should return a very healthy core of talent in 2013.
"I thought we had a good chance coming in, and I really think this game came down to three big plays against us, and we didn't get those big plays compared to theirs," Bonin said.
"We put in a lot of new and different things on offence, and I knew it would take time," he added. "It took us the first quarter and a half and finally we seemed to hit our stride."
Indeed, coming off a confidence-building summer at the helm of the Sudbury Jr. Gladiators' offence, Holub displayed plenty of promise, especially over the final 30 minutes.
"Hunter does a lot of scrambling around, which makes us think a lot out there," Britt said.
Having practiced for the past few years opposite graduated all-star Dan Poirier, Britt said he sees some definite similarities between Holub and Poirier.
"They both like to run and they both have an arm, and that's what you have to be ready for," he said.
Lo-Ellen Park Knights 38, Lasalle Lancers 0
If the CND defensive unit threw down the gauntlet in game one, the Knights defensive 12 responded in kind in the nightcap. Lo-Ellen absolutely swarmed an over-matched Lasalle offence, providing little or no time for speedy Kenneth Bottrell to break free.
Add in an offensive grouping that was more than opportunistic enough to provide an insurance margin that was plenty comfortable and it's easy to see why many football fans are looking forward to the Oct. 19 regular season finale between the Knights and Alouettes.
Returning QB Brady Ellsworth wasted little time getting Lo-Ellen on the board, finding Aaron Lachapelle on the receiving end of a 12-yard touchdown pass before the game was five minutes old.
Following a single on a 34-yard punt by Ellsworth, the Knights increased their lead to 15-0, with running back Matt Glass waltzing in from the two.
A Lasalle interception and some untimely penalties from their adversary kept the game close, with Lo-Ellen adding a third major early in quarter three.
Glass scored his second TD of the game, capping a drive in which he carried five times for 26 yards after Eric Donaldson returned the second-half kickoff 44 yards.
Less than three minutes later, Glass was at it again, darting in from the six, with running mate Talon Farmer rounding out the scoring with a 54-yard scamper to pay dirt.
But if the Lo-Ellen offence was solid, it was the ultra-aggressive defence that garnered plenty of attention.
"We did lose a main guy (2011 defensive MVP Ian Thomson), but a lot of guys stepped up this season," returning all-star lineman Jacob Czaja said. "We have a lot of speed and a lot of good guys that want to hit."
And therein lies the one concern for coach Kevin Ellsworth. His team was flagged for an uncharacteristically high number of unnecessary roughness infractions — at least eight times, by a conservative count.
"We got too excited and took some dumb penalties," Czaja said.
Based on the tone of coach Ellsworth as the game drew to an end, the Knights will certainly hear about their indiscretions, though offset with an otherwise impressive performance.
The SDSSAA schedule resumes on Thursday with one game on the slate as the St. Charles College Cardinals tangle with the Lockerby Vikings. Friday will see a total of six teams in action as Bishop Carter visits Confederation, Lasalle hosts Lively and St. Benedict begins their title defence opposite the Knights.