The busiest week of the high school football schedule wrapped up Sept. 14, with the shortened season finding six games jammed into week one action, including three teams playing their second game of the week.
The week-ending triple-header featured a Valley East rivalry, Lively staking their claim while the pre-season favourites improve to 2-0 against a much-better-than-expected opponent.
Following is a recap from all three games:
Confederation Chargers 15 Bishop Carter Gators 0
Locked in a scoreless battle, the Chargers and Gators appeared set to head into half-time with the scoreboard reading nothing but zeros when Riley Lundrigan broke through to block a punt deep in Bishop Carter territory.
Confederation running back Tom Cousins made it count on the very next play, weaving his way 21 yards for the major as the Chargers broke the ice. Buoyed with optimism, the home side added to their lead early in the third as wide receiver Jordan Villeneuve made a great read on a long pass from Ethan Gorman, sliding back inside and completing a 50-yard pass and run to paydirt.
Both extra-point attempts were blocked, but kicker Aaron Campbell did manage to split the uprights with a 30-yard field goal in the fourth quarter as the Chargers hit the win column right out of the gates.
Returning to a backfield tandem that includes Brandon Gaudette for a second straight year, Cousins felt the comfort that comes with increase playing time, especially at running back.
“I noticed that I can read the plays better, picking up where I can make better cuts to get more yardage instead of just running forward,” Cousins said.
In fact, it was somewhat that mindset that led to the game-opening score.
“It was a counter,” said Cousins. “I got amazing blocks from the O-line, broke a tackle and beat the one guy left to the outside.”
As for the Gators, in only their second year of existence, it would have been difficult to walk away from the Friday encounter without noticing Dylan Ricciuto.
Making a name for himself with the Sudbury Gladiators as something of a kamikaze special teams expert, Ricciuto opened the game with a devastating open field hit on the kickoff, sending Chargers' wide receiver Scott Beaton to the sidelines for the rest of the afternoon.
From there, all Ricciuto did was make his presence felt on both sides of the ball, the clear cut leader of the Bishop Carter defence. He credits much of his success to the city's summer football program.
“At first, when I went to the Glads, I didn't know all the positions,” Ricciuto said. “I can now read plays 10 times better. I know when there's a tight end, I know when there's motion or a sweep.”
On a team that does not benefit for the large group of coaching volunteers that is often seen at bigger schools, the experience of players like Ricciuto can prove invaluable to BAC head coach Matt Greening.
“Because we only have one coach, it's hard to teach everything, to teach every position,” Ricciuto said. “Because I know the positions, I help out whenever I can.”
Ironically, Ricciuto's teammate with the varsity Gladiators, Josiah Walt, showed the way for the Chargers defensively, recording three interceptions on the day.
Lively Hawks 28 Lasalle Lancers 7
There was no doubt that winning the SDSSAA “B” championship was a nice step forward for the Lively football program last year.
This season, the Hawks want to assert themselves with the big boys.
Coach Reg Bonin and company took another move in that direction, looking very solid from start to finish in a convincing win over the 2010 city champs.
The visiting Hawks built up a 21-0 lead by early in the second quarter and surrendered only a second half major to Lasalle running back Joe Jelen (55-yard run) in evening their record at 1-1.
After Thomas Rideout raised the curtain on the scoring with a 10-yard touchdown run, quarterback Hunter Holub took care of the rest, reaching the end zone on runs of 28 and seven yards and connecting with Collin Courchesne for a 44-yard TD pass as Lively looks to make the “A” division playoffs for the first time since their return to the league some six years ago.
While the entire defence played well for the Hawks, Brandyn Taylor was clearly a standout, right in the centre of the action for the entire 60 minutes in his role as middle linebacker.
Taylor finished the contest with 11 tackles, while Jelen, who was seeing double-duty for the Lancers, was equally as imposing on the defence for the homeside.
Lively plays host to Confederation this Thursday at 4 p.m. in Walden while Lasalle (0-2) looks to crack the win column against the Lockerby Vikings.
Lo-Ellen Park Knights 43 St Benedict Bears 13
In a match-up where the final score was truly deceiving, the Knights improved to 2-0 thanks to a 22-point fourth-quarter outburst, breaking open a contest in which the rebuilding Bears trailed only 21-13 entering the final 15 minutes of play.
The experience of Lo-Ellen showed early as the Knights built up a 21-0 lead midway through quarter two, as former Lockerby assistant coach Lance Patrie got his feet wet at the helm of the St Benedict program.
But the enthusiastic young Bears responded, partially behind the play of quarterback Ryan Dozzi, who displayed surprising quickness and elusiveness in guiding the offence, partially behind a defence that swarm-tackled in the tradition of so many great teams at St Benedict in the past.
Still, it wasn't enough to be able to complete the upset against the SDSSAA pre-season favourites. Lo-Ellen QB Brady Ellsworth kicked off the scoring with touchdown runs from both the two- and the 20-yard lines, with Matt Glass adding a third major on the ground a short while later from 24 yards out.
St Benedict found life on the very next drive when Dozzi connected with speedy Christian Battistelli on an 82-yard pass and run and the entire complexion of the game seemed to change.
Energized by the score, the Bears' defence came to life, with neither team able to add to the scoring parade until midway through the third quarter. Dozzi chalked up his second TD pass of the game, finding Spencer Romenco from the 22-yard line and the game that threatened to be a blow-out early on was now a one-score affair.
Still, championship teams are made in the fourth quarter and the Knights proved full value for their status as one of the elite, opening the floodgates late in the game.
Glass added two more touchdowns to his resume, bulldozing in from the one and the two, with Talon Farmer adding a 28-yard TD run and the Bears surrendering a safety to account for all the scoring.
Alex Bertrand converted five of six majors for the Knights. Lo-Ellen targets a 3-0 start Friday against Bishop Carter while St Benedict prepares for what should be a great game, battling the St Charles Cardinals that same night at 7:30 p.m. at the James Jerome Sports Complex.