Week 10: November 10
Football High school officials huddle together in effort to recruit three teams for 10-man league
Published Thursday December 20th, 2007
Appeared on page B12
It appears to be third and long for the 10-man provincial high school football league.
After a year of operating with just five teams, gridiron officials need to get three more teams for next fall's loop or the league will fold.
That's because a New Brunswick Interscholastic Athletic Association bylaw states that eight teams are the minimum requirement for a provincial championship.
In the fall, 13 squads played for the 12-man football crown and five competed for the 10-man title.
"It is one of the issues we are dealing with and I am talking with some of the coaches to see what some of the options are," said provincial high school league president Perry Kukkonen. "Obviously, we'd hate to see any programs not continue next year as a result of the 10-man league being disbanded."
Provincial 10-man champion St. Stephen, runner-up St. Malachy's, Rothesay, JMA Armstrong of Salisbury and Harbour View made up the loop in 2007, one created to give an opportunity for smaller schools or schools new to football to develop.
"It allowed teams to let kids play football at a level they can compete at and feel good about it at the end of the day," said Kukkonen. "It also allows some programs to exist."
Some, such as Hampton and Saint John, for example, have achieved great success at the 10-man level and then graduated into strong programs at the AAA level.
At stake, says Kukkonen, is about 150 positions on the five clubs and while some will move to 12-man if they have to, other programs could fold, meaning an almost certain reduction in athletes.
Kukkonen is investigating the potential of a new team in Sussex and the possibility of having Kennebecasis Valley back in the loop. KVHS left the 12-man division after two games this fall because of insufficient player numbers.
"Maybe, if we can't get eight, we can get seven. If we get seven for a year, that will buy us a little time to see if there is an eighth team the following year," he said.
Peter Corby, executive director of the NBIAA, said eight teams must be registered for June 1, 2008 for the loop to operate but that process is already well underway. Kukkonen wants a solution by the end of February.
"The last thing I want to see are programs not being fielded next year because everybody is forced to play 12-man football and numbers aren't going to allow certain teams to do that," said Kukkonen.
Championship a reflection of early building blocks
Published Thursday November 15th, 2007
Appeared on page B12
Someday in the coming years, Alex Desilets will gain more appreciation of the impact his father Nick had on a group of young football players St. Stephen.
For now though, the pre-schooler is enjoying the festivities associated with the Spartans' provincial 10-man football championship, where the school won the Nick Desilets Memorial Trophy, named after his father, who died suddenly four years ago, less than two months after Alex was born.
"Nick loved football and working with those boys - that was something he loved," said Andrea Desilets, Alex's mother, Nick's wife and a St. Stephen High School teacher.
"He loved every second of it."
Saturday was a difficult day in some ways for Andrea, as the Spartans played for the trophy honouring the memory of her husband, the man she meet while both were students at Mount Allison University. That was before they enrolled at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton for their education degrees, which helped them both land jobs in St. Stephen - Nick teaching French and her science.
Nick also carried his love affair for football to the area, was the school's head coach, and was beginning to develop a peewee program.
When he died, those plans were beginning to take shape and in some ways, Saturday's victory was a reflection of those early building blocks.
And while the team had been close before, they pulled it off with a thrilling 33-18 victory over the St. Malachy's Saints in Moncton, less than an hour from where Desilets played university ball.
"Not having Nick here is still difficult but on the other hand, to see the people remembering him like this, to see the game and the program growing here in St. Stephen is very special," said Andrea. "To share his memory like that is amazing."
In the post-game celebrations, many of the Spartans' players started to chant Desilets' name.
The atmosphere at the school this week is overwhemingly positive with the trophy in the school, players, proudly displaying their medals -and bruises - with plenty of smiles.
"The game they played - not just them but St. Malachy's - it was good football," said Andrea. "It was a good clean game and obviously everyone had worked really hard to be there and that is the way Nick felt football should be."
After the game Saturday, Alex was ready to celebrate in style.
"When they won, he was very excited," said Andrea. "He wore his Spartan hat to bed that night. He is getting old enough now to realize what it is. It is a special game."
Still with football, Spartans head coach Tom Hart says the school will officially recognize the team with an assembly Monday at 8:45 a.m.
Highlanders defend title
Dylan Hollohan puts on a show by scoring all three touchdowns in 23-0 win over Fredericton High Black Kats
By Sean Hatchard
Times & Transcript Staff
Published Monday November 12th, 2007
Appeared on page C1
Dylan Hollohan saved his best high school football game for the biggest game of his career.
The New Brunswick High School Football League 12-man division championship game turned into the Dylan Hollohan Show Saturday night at Rocky Stone Memorial Field.
The Grade 12 senior closed out his high school career in style by running for three touchdowns -- including two on punt returns -- to lead the Bernice MacNaughton Highlanders to a 23-0 win over the Fredericton High Black Kats to cap a perfect 9-0 season and capture their second consecutive Ed Skiffington Trophy.
Hollohan -- who played as a running back on offence, free safety on defence and returner on special teams -- never left the field. He said the victory felt sweeter than MacNaughton's 10-7 win over Fredericton High in last year's provincial final.
"This is just incredible. Last year, it didn't feel like I was as much a part of the team. I played both ways, but it didn't feel like I was involved as much in the offence and defence and everything," said Hollohan, one of 18 players back from last season's championship team.
"I also didn't have that great a game in the final last year, so I really felt like I redeemed myself this year and was able to provide our rookies with that same winning feeling that I got to experience from (running back) Nathan Cormier and all the guys on last year's team.
"This one is so much better, just because I feel like I was able to carry the team and it's just an unbelievable feeling."
Since entering the 12-man division in 2002, the Highlanders have won three provincial championships.
Playing under a light snowfall, the game turned out to be a defensive struggle just like it was a year ago between the two teams.
By the time the first offensive touchdown of the game was scored "" Hollohan's third major, a one-yard plunge with 26 seconds remaining -- it was well too late for the Black Kats.
The backbreakers came earlier.
With a minute remaining in the first quarter, Hollohan, using a combination of dazzling speed and agility, returned a Fredericton High punt 55 yards for the game's first touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
Thomas Blight added a single late in the second quarter to send MacNaughton into the half leading 8-0.
Another Blight single in the opening minute of the fourth quarter made it 9-0 and then with nine minutes left to play, Hollohan broke loose again. On almost the exact same play as in the first quarter, Hollohan galloped 90 yards on another punt return for another major.
On both punt returns, Hollohan received fantastic blocking from his teammates, got out to the left sideline and was gone untouched to the end zone.
"I was just worried about catching the ball in the first place and then I realized the first guy had missed and we had the wall set up. I saw all those green shirts lined up on the left and it was like my dream came true," Hollohan said. "I just told myself I wasn't going to quit and turned on the jets."
His teammates were impressed, too.
"We set up the wall left, the exact same play both times, and we just hit all of our blocks and sprung him free. He's got great speed and it doesn't take much," said Highlanders linebacker Ed McNally, the Eastern Conference player of the year.
"What Dylan did tonight -- never coming off the field and scoring three touchdowns in a provincial final -- was just unbelievable."
"Dylan's in great shape and proved today that he's a MVP," added head coach Ed Wasson. "We've known all year that he was capable of doing what he did tonight."
MacNaughton's ground game of Hollohan and quarterback Scott Kelly kept the Fredericton High defence on the field most of the night.
When he did get the ball, Black Kats quarterback Jeff Madsen found some receivers for short passes and running back Niels Thakkar escaped for a couple strong runs, but neither was able to come up with the big offensive play Fredericton High needed.
The Black Kats never reached the red zone against a Highlanders defence, which finished the season by giving up just 14 points in nine games.
"Our defence played strong all year and did again tonight. We knew Fredericton would be our toughest test of the year and they were, but we were focused and knew it was game time," McNally said.
"This is the best we could have possibly done. There's nothing past winning two provincial championships and it's the best way to end my high school football career.
"Two breakdowns on special teams made the difference, acknowledged Black Kats linebacker Elliott Carr.
"Our defence played well, we just screwed up on a couple punt returns," said Carr, one of 12 players back from last year's Fredericton High squad.
"I don't know what happened, they were just the better team tonight. They were the toughest team we saw this year."
Players of the game were Hollohan (offence) and Ben Lass (defence) for MacNaughton and Thakkar (offence) and Carr (defence) for Fredericton High.
Also Saturday at Rocky Stone, the St. Stephen High Spartans defeated the St. Malachy's Saints 33-18 for the 10-man division title and the Nick Desilets Memorial Trophy.
An emotional championship
Football St. Stephen Spartans hoist trophy dedicated to former coach
Published Monday November 12th, 2007
Appeared on page B8
MONCTON - The St. Stephen Spartans' 33-18 win over the St. Malachy's Memorial Saints represented more than a New Brunswick Interscholastic Athletic Association 10-man football championship.
The triumph meant a chance to hoist the Nick Desilets Memorial Trophy, a piece of hardware that pays tribute to the late St. Stephen football coach who died suddenly in the spring of 2003. The Spartans had dedicated their efforts to the late bench boss in last year's final and in the 2005 championship, but they came up short both times.
But Saturday's convincing victory at Rocky Stone Field in Moncton, not far from where Desilets played college football with Mount Allison University, finally allowed the Spartans to remember the former coach in style.
"None of our current kids played under him, but they know it's important to us and his family in St. Stephen,'' said Spartans head coach Tom Hart, who coached with Desilets. "It was a little emotional. It was something we wanted to do last year, but we lost and that was a big disappointment.''
There were no disappointments Saturday as St. Stephen scored early and never looked back. Although the Spartans held a modest 13-6 lead at halftime, they were up 26-6 after the third quarter.
Fullback Brett Hooper scored three touchdowns for the winners while running backs Chris Parks and Mike Cloney added one major apiece. Gareth Whittingham booted three extra points to round out the scoring. St. Mac's quarterback Trevor Harrison fired three TD passes to receiver Walker Blizzard.
"Their big plays were Blizzard's touchdowns,'' Hart said. "Other than that, they didn't really move the ball that well. We didn't see anything we didn't expect and neither did they. We tried to run the ball and control the clock.''
Before losing last year's provincial championship to Harbour View High, the Spartans suffered a setback to the Kennebecasis Valley High Crusaders in the 2005 final.
Hart admits he didn't think redemption would come this soon.
"We didn't expect it this year,'' the coach said. "At the beginning of the season, we expected we would have a .500 team, but we ended up having more (talent) than we thought we had.
"We can attribute a lot of it to the bantam program. Those players came up used to winning and they had a winning attitude.''
The Saints were in a different boat. They were 0-8 last season and hadn't won more than one game in a season since 1995.
"I guess I'm pretty excited that we got there in the first place,'' St. Mac's head coach Phil McGarvey said. "I believe we held our own, but St. Stephen certainly wanted it. Hooper carried that team on his shoulders. He was unbelievable.''
McGarvey added that he's optimistic about next year, noting he'll likely have 20 returning players.
"We've been working for a while with minor football and we have a group that will come up again next year,'' he said. "We're in the football business now and I think we will be for a long time. I think this experience will catapult us to even more success. I'm pleased and proud of the way the kids worked.''
Shortly after the Spartans won the province's 10-man title, Moncton's Bernice MacNaughton Highlanders blanked the Fredericton High Black Kats 23-0 at Rocky Stone to win the Ed Skiffington Trophy, emblematic of the NBIAA 12-man championship. Dylan Hollohan ran for three touchdowns -- including two on punt returns -- to lead the Highlanders (9-0) to their second consecutive 12-man banner. Hollohan - who played as a running back on offence, free safety on defence and returner on special teams - never left the field.
Backers win top awards
Published Saturday November 10th, 2007
Appeared on page C10
MONCTON - While offence generated headlines, defensive players won the top awards Friday at the New Brunswick Interscholastic Athletic Association's 12-man football league banquet.
Ed McNally, a linebacker with the top-ranked Bernice MacNaughton Highlanders was named the player of the year in the Eastern Conference while Jake Thomas, a middle linebacker with the Leo Hayes Lions, was the most valuable player in the Western Conference.
A pair of Saint John Greyhounds took home major individual awards for the West.
Tim Jackson, a safety with the Greyhounds, was named the most outstanding defensive player in his conference while teammate Chris Zeucher, a left tackle, was selected as the most outstanding offensive lineman.
Quarterback Jordan Heather of Oromocto was the top offensive player in the West while David Edmonds, a time keeper at Hampton School, took home the league service award in the West.
Three Tantramar Titans earned top individual awards in the East. Jamie Milner was the top offensive lineman, running back Calum Hardie was the top offensive player and linebacker Justin Richard earned the defensive player of the year nod. Adam Wentzell of Riverview and Jacques Melanson of Moncton shared the defensive lineman of the year honour.
The Harrison Trimble Trojans coaching staff won the coach of the year award in the East. There was no coaching award in the West. Les Ryder of Moncton High won the league service award in the East.
The Bill Glendinning Award winners were Trevor Clark of Hampton, Matthew Benson of Moncton and Scott Walton of Tantramar.
MacNaughton meets Fredericton today at 4:30 p.m. for the Ed Skiffington 12-man football championship. St. Stephen hooks up with St. Malachy's at 1 p.m. for the Nick Desilets Memorial Trophy as champions of the 10-man division. Both games are at Rocky Stone.
OFFENCE Linemen - Andy Ouellette, Fredericton; Chris Zeuchner, Saint John; Brett Dingley, Oromocto; Michael Wilkinson, Leo Hayes; Tim Stacey, Oromocto; Running Backs - Caleb Jones, Saint John; Jerred Hamm, Simonds; Mitchel Cormier, Leo Hayes; Chris Hillier, Oromocto; Brad Jones, Fredericton; Nathan Munroe, Saint John; Matt Henderson, Hampton; Quarterback - Jordan Heather, Oromocto; Punter/Kicker - Zack Cann, Fredericton
DEFENCE - Linemen - Cole Savoie, Saint John; Ryan Downe, Fredericton; John Benson, Leo Hayes; Matt Phillips, Simonds; Linebackers - Matt Harmon, Oromocto; Elliot Carr, Fredericton; Eon MacIntyre, Hampton; Jake Thomas, Leo Hayes; Steve Glover, Saint John; Defensive Backs - Tim Jackson, Saint John; Daniel Richardson, Fredericton; Jeremy Power, Saint John; Jordan Richards, Oromocto; Return man - Elliot Hicks, Fredericton.
OFFENSE - Jamie Miller, OL, Tantramar; Matt Fagan, OL, Tantramar; Josh Horsman, OL, MacNaughton; Adam Saule, OL, Riverview; Jermey Swan, OL, Mathieu Martin; Rob Arsenault, OL, Harrison Trimble; Calum Hardie, RB, Tantramar; Dylan Hollohan, RB, MacNaughton; Jordan Kenny, RB, Harrison Trimble; Scott Kelly, QB, MacNaughton; Anthony Sear, QB, Riverview; Mark Smith, Rec., L'Odyssee; Mark MacDougall, Rec., Tantramar; Justin Vaughn, Rec., MacNaughton; Brett Lewis, Rec., Harrison Trimble; Matt Arsenault, Punter, Mathieu Martin.
DEFENCE - Chris Wilson, DL, Tantramar; Ben Lass, DL, MacNaughton; Jacques Melanson, DL, Moncton; Adam Wentzell, DL, Riverview; Zack Smart, DL, Harrison Trimble; Justin Richard, LB, Tantramar; Ed McNally, LB, MacNaughton; Alex Parsons, LB, Riverview; Ryan Goguen, LB, MacNaughton; Nathan Jeffrey, LB, Harrison Trimble; Tyler Nadolny, DB, Tantramar; Mitch Casey, DB, MacNaughton; Corbin MacLean, DB, MacNaughton; Matt Benson, DB, Moncton; Norm Kerstien, DB, Harrison Trimble; Robbie Dobson, Spec. teams, Harrison Trimble; Matt Archibald, Kicker, Riverview.
Highlanders face Kats for N.B. football crown
Quarterback Scott Kelly leads MacNaughton in defence of provincial title
By Sean Hatchard
Times & Transcript Staff
Published Saturday November 10th, 2007
Appeared on page C1
A year ago this week, Scott Kelly was thrust into a leading role with the Bernice MacNaughton Highlanders.
He was a Grade 10 rookie slotback and backup quarterback when four of his teammates, including all-star quarterback Eric Daigle, were injured in a car accident, just four days before MacNaughton was to meet the Fredericton High Black Kats in the New Brunswick High School Football League 12-man division championship game.
Daigle was able to dress for the final, but broke his throwing hand in the accident and could only play fullback and on special teams.
The Highlanders called on Kelly to make his first high school start at quarterback in the biggest game of his live. Playing with the composure of a veteran, he threw a touchdown pass and helped MacNaughton defeat Fredericton High 10-7 for its second provincial championship in three years.
"That was the best feeling ever. No one expected us to win last year," Kelly, a 16-year-old Grade 11 student, said this week.
"A lot was going on with our team at this time last year and it was pretty special the way it ended. It was nice to be a part of it."
Kelly leads the Highlanders into the 12-man division final today in a rematch against the Black Kats at 4:30 p.m. at Rocky Stone Memorial Field.
MacNaughton will attempt to become the first team to win the Ed Skiffington Trophy in back-to-back seasons since the Harrison Trimble Trojans, who captured three straight from 1999-2001.
The Highlanders (8-0) and Black Kats (7-0) won their respective Eastern and Western Conferences this season.
It's the fifth consecutive year the teams have met in the playoffs. MacNaughton has defeated Fredericton High twice in the championship game, 13-9 on the road in 2004 and last season at Rocky Stone. The Black Kats also eliminated the Highlanders en route to provincial titles in 2003 and 2005.
With Daigle graduated, Kelly took over at quarterback from where he left off last season. The Eastern Conference all-star has thrown just one interception in eight games for MacNaughton.
"He's an excellent leader and makes very good decisions. He also has that very competitive desire to do well," said Highlanders head coach Ed Wasson.
"I think this year he's been, by far, the best quarterback in our conference. He audibles at the line, can read defences well and is very safe with the ball."
A full season as the starter has made a world of difference, Kelly said.
"I have a lot more confidence now. Last year, I didn't practise really at all and this season I've been playing all year and I know the offence a lot better," said Kelly, who also quarterbacked the Moncton Highlanders to the New Brunswick bantam championship in 2005.
"I didn't really know how to scramble last year or feel pressure coming or look for my receivers. This year, I've learned to go from one receiver to another and it's added a lot more to our passing game."
The Highlanders offence has scored 357 points while their defence has been stingy, giving up just 14 points in eight games.
The Black Kats' numbers are impressive as well. They've outscored the opposition 206-34 in seven games.
"Fredericton is undefeated, too, and they'll want to prove themselves after last year, so they'll be gunning for us," Kelly said.
"I'm expecting a hard-fought game right to the end. It will be another close one."
Meanwhile, the St. Stephen High Spartans and St. Malachy's Saints clash in the 10-man division final for the Nick Desilets Memorial Trophy today at 1 p.m. at Rocky Stone.
Highlanders manager a 'big part of this team'
Markus Cyr makes sure team is ready to take on opponents
By Sean Hatchard
Times & Transcript Staff
Published Saturday November 10th, 2007
Appeared on page C13
He doesn't wear a helmet or shoulder pads, but Markus Cyr is just as much a member of the Bernice MacNaughton Highlanders as the players who will suit up today in the New Brunswick High School Football League championship game.
Cyr, a Grade 12 student at the school, suffers from a heart condition, which required a heart transplant surgery when he was just nine years old.
The condition doesn't allow him to participate in full-contact sports, such as football, but that hasn't stopped him from being a member of the team.
Cyr is Mr. Utility for the Highlanders. He prepares the players for practice, serves as the equipment manager and makes sure the team is always well hydrated. He attends all practices and games as head coach Ed Wasson's right-hand man.
"Mr. Wasson came to me last year and asked me if I wanted to be the manager. I said yes and I've been here ever since," said Cyr, 18, who will graduate in June.
"It's nice to be part of a team and I like the guys. They are all my friends and I enjoy helping out my friends.
"Sometimes it's hard because I'd really like to be out on the field, but this is the next best thing, this is the closest I can get to the field without playing. I just do whatever I can to help make us champions."
The players have taken notice.
"Markus is a great guy and a big part of this team. He's had his health problems, but it's amazing the way he's got through them and we really appreciate everything he does," said MacNaughton defensive back Corbin McLean, a team captain.
"We joke around with him a lot and he's just one of the guys, but he's also moral support. He's probably showed up more than some of the players have."
The defending champion Highlanders play the Fredericton High Black Kats in the 12-man division final today at 4:30 p.m. at Rocky Stone Memorial Field.
n MacNaughton linebacker Ed McNally was selected the Eastern Conference player of the year at the 12-man division awards banquet last night.
Three Tantramar Titans earned top individual conference awards. Jamie Milner was the top offensive lineman, running back Calum Hardie was the offensive player of the year and linebacker Justin Richard earned the defensive player of the year nod.
Other Eastern Conference award winners were Adam Wentzell of the Riverview High Royals and Jacques Melanson of the Moncton High Purple Knights (defensive linemen of the year), Harrison Trimble Trojans (coaching staff of the year) and Les Ryder of Moncton (league service award).
Recipients of the Bill Glendinning Award for academics and sportsmanship included Scott Walton of Tantramar and Matthew Benson of Moncton High.
The Eastern Conference offensive all-star team features offensive linemen Jamie Milner and Matt Fagan of Tantramar, Josh Horsman of MacNaughton, Adam Saule of Riverview High, Jeremy Swan of the Mathieu-Martin Matadors and Rob Arsenault of Harrison Trimble; running backs Calum Hardie of Tantramar, Dylan Hollohan of MacNaughton and Jordan Kenny of Harrison Trimble; quarterbacks Scott Kelly of MacNaughton and Anthony Sears of Riverview High; receivers Mark Smith of the L'Odyssée Olympiens, Mark MacDougall of Tantramar, Justin Vaughan of MacNaughton and Brett Lewis of Harrison Trimble and punter Matt Arsenault of Mathieu-Martin.
Eastern Conference defensive all-stars include defensive linemen Chris Wilson of Tantramar, Ben Lass of MacNaughton, Jacques Melanson of Moncton High, Adam Wentzell of Riverview High and Zack Smart of Harrison Trimble; linebackers Justin Richard of Tantramar, Ed McNally and Ryan Goguen of MacNaughton, Alex Parsons of Riverview High and Nathan Jeffrey of Harrison Trimble; defensive backs Tyler Nadolny of Tantramar; Mitch Cassie and Corbin McLean of MacNaughton; Matt Benson of Moncton High and Norm Keirstead of Harrison Trimble, special teams player Robbie Dobson of Harrison Trimble and kicker Matt Archibald of Riverview.
Grid Black Kats 'feel we can beat anybody'
By MIKE POWER
Published Friday November 9th, 2007
Appeared on page B1
The Fredericton High School Blacks and the word underdogs haven't been together in many sentences over the last 30 years.
But here you go: the FHS Black Kats will travel to Moncton's Rocky Stone Field Saturday as underdogs to win the New Brunswick High School Football League 12-man football title. The Kats will face the Bernice MacNaughton Highlanders of Moncton a team that has won the championship twice in the past three seasons, including a 10-7 win over the Kats last year to capture the Ed Skiffington Trophy.
It will be the third meeting in four seasons between the two duelling dynasties.
Fredericton High will be out to capture their twelfth provincial title but only their third in the past nine seasons. That's a relative dry spell for the outfit that won seven of eight in the late 1980's and early 1990's.
Saturday's game will kick off at 4:30 p.m. Rogers Television will broadcast the game locally. It will follow the provincial 10-man championship game pitting St. Malachy's Saints of Saint John against St. Stephen Spartans in a 1 p.m. kickoff.
The Kats and Highlanders both come in unbeaten, the Kats as west division champions, the Highlanders the kings of the east.
Since east hasn't played west except for crossover semifinal games last week their isn't a lot of hard evidence to pick a favourite in the game. But if you go by the numbers, the Moncton school is to be favoured.
MacNaughton has scored more than 300 points this season while their defence has given up a single touchdown. Gaudy numbers indeed. But the Black Kats have put up some impressive numbers of their own: two playoff wins in which they've outscored opponents 74-0.
"We're playing some great football right now," said FHS offensive lineman Bill Gregg. "It took us a while to get here but that was always the plan. We knew this was a team with a lot of potential, but we knew we needed to learn and get better thought the season and right now we feel we can beat anybody."
Confident words from Gregg as he watched his teammates go through their paces on the new turf field at the University of New Brunswick.
"We will not lose to anybody's reputation," Gregg added. "We are not a team that will let stuff we read bother us; we think we are as good as any team and that we haven't been given the credit for that yet.
"We're taking it seriously. We've been practicing hard, that's why we are out on the turf this week, because (Rocky Stone) is turf and last year we didn't get a chance to adjust to that before we had to play the game."
It's hard not to give Gregg's words some weight. Last week they handled the second best team in the east, the Tantramar Titans with ease, beating them 31-0, and shutting down the Titans fearsome running game.
"We honestly don't know all that much about MacNaughton," Gregg said. "By game time I expect the coaches will have us prepared for what they like to do. I would expect a more well rounded team than any we've faced this year, a team without many weaknesses. Kind of like us."
The Kats rock solid defence has been supplemented by an aggressive attack.
"We know we can pass the ball, we have some great receivers," Gregg said. "And we've added that running game, or I guess we've just really made it better. Any question marks about any part of this team have pretty much been erased."
For Gregg and several of his teammates, this will be the end of the road for their football careers and that's always good for a little motivation.
"This is 12 years of my life coming to a close as far as football goes," he said. "I'm already getting a little emotional about it, I think I know how I'm going to feel when the final whistle goes on Saturday. It might be a little tough."
Spartans hope third time a charm in 10-man football championship
High school After knocking on the door past two years, St. Stephen takes on St. Malachy's
Published Friday November 9th, 2007
Appeared on page B6
ST. STEPHEN - Forget the rebuilding.
In St. Stephen, it's more like retooling for the Spartans' high school football team.
And after two years of knocking on the championship door in the 10-man division of the New Brunswick Interscholastic Athletic Association Football League, the Spartans are back again, this time hoping they finally break through with a long-desired title.
"It would be amazing and a big relief," said Brett Hooper, an all-star running back who is one of five returning Grade 12 players for the 7-0 Spartans.
"Last year, we had a team where the players were together for two or three years and it was like a big family. This year, there are more rookies and it would be like, there, we did it, finally."
St. Stephen puts its perfect record on the line Saturday at 1 p.m. at Rocky Stone Field in Moncton against the upstart St. Malachy's Saints, the third straight year the Spartans have reached the final.
But after a 28-21 setback to Harbour View in 2006, it was expected the St. Stephen squad may need a year of rebuilding.
Not the case as a 6-0 regular-season slate proved, one where the Spartans outscored their opposition 240-54. They downed JMA Armstrong 21-7 in the semifinal.
One of the big reasons for the success is the influx of talent from the bantam ranks.
This year, the Spartans got a boost in the form of big-game experience from a strong cast of freshmen from the St. Stephen-Calais Silverados, who cruised to the Maritime bantam title last year, capped with a 56-14 win over Annapolis Valley in the regional final.
About half of that team's players ventured to the Spartan's roster this year and have provided quality depth for the senior players.
"They had a winning attitude and they are used to winning," said St. Stephen head coach Tom Hart of the recruits. "We didn't expect this year to be like this but we had players with more experience that we expected. The kids worked hard in the off season as well to make themselves better."
Hooper, for one, remembers what his skill level was like as a raw untested freshman on the gridiron field.
And he appreciates the role the rookies have played in the season thus far.
"I have to give a lot of credit to Ian Pratt who started the bantam program," said Hooper. "There is a great group of athletes and he taught them football. When I came in, I had no experience and it was a big learning experience. With that bantam program, I feel they know the game and it is easy for them to jump in. If they are told what to do, they can do it."
The Spartans debuted with an impressive 62-0 romp over Harbour View in the season opener and then followed with a 38-14 decision over JMA Armstrong before getting past St. Malachy's 34-27 at home Sept. 22.
Since then, they are 4-0 and have a 127-20 advantage on the scoreboard.
"It is hard for them not to be confident but we are not going to take anyone lightly," said Hart. "We know the Saints have a good team."
The Spartans won three major awards at Wednesday's annual banquet and placed six players on the all-star team.
Its philosophy of run first, throw second leads to a quartet of backs - seniors Hooper and Cory Parks, junior Cody Boucher and Grade 10 back Scott Bell - who share the workload under the guidance of Grade 11 signal caller Mike Cloney.
Hart points to Cloney's leadership as key.
"He runs the offence and like it should be, he is the leader out there," said Hart.
"He is very good at hiding the ball. Part of our offence is based on deception and he is very good at hiding where the ball goes. He doesn't get to run the ball a whole lot and we don't throw a whole lot so he doesn't get big numbers but all the little things he does are important."
On defense, all-star linebacker Jason Deveau is part of a team that's made very few mistakes on either side of the ball.
Thus the impressive record and high hopes this weekend.
"You always want to win; that's the whole idea," said Hart.
Hooper says the seniors learned a lot from last year's setback and says he will be talking to the young players about playing a full game Saturday.
"We feel the only way we are going to lose is if we beat ourselves," he said, noting that if they don't execute, St. Malachy's has the talent to make them pay. "Last year, we came out flat in the first half and Harbour View took advantage and it was too late to come back. What I tell the younger players is that we have to get out to a strong start or it is all going to go down hill. You can't play from behind the whole game."
Fredericton meets MacNaughton at 4:30 p.m. in the 12-man division final, also at Rocky Stone.
St. Stephen captures three major awards
Published Thursday November 8th, 2007
Appeared on page B12
SAINT JOHN - First, quarterback Trevor Harrison led the Saint Malachy's Saints to the provincial 10-man division final.
Now, the Grade 11 pivot is the New Brunswick Interscholastic Athletic Association's 10-man division's player of the year.
Harrison received his award Wednesday during a banquet at the Thistle-St. Andrews Curling club that effectively kicked off the festivities for Saturday's football championships in Moncton.
"He's a super kid," said St. Malachy's coach Philip McGarvey. "He is a real leader and real solid influence on the team and on the field."
It's been quite a turnaround for the Saints, who face the undefeated St. Stephen Spartans Saturday for the provincial title at 1 p.m. at Rocky Stone Field.
Last season, St. Malachy's went 0-8 and was outscored 269-31. This year, with Harrison at the helm, the team went 3-3 and then won its opening playoff game - 19-18 over the Rothesay Red Hawks- to set up a showdown with St. Stephen.
Three members of the unbeaten Spartans earned major awards.
Running back Brett Hooper was named the offensive player of the year, Kirk Arsenault was the offensive lineman of the year and Shawn McLeod was the defensive lineman of the year.
"Last year, I played the same position and I felt like I was part of the team, but this year, I have been trying to show more leadership," said Hooper, a force from his fullback position. "I feel like I have had a great year so far."
Brian Gilliland of Rothesay was named the defensive player of the year while the St. Malachy's coaching staff led by McGarvey, was named the coaching staff of the year. The other Saints' coaches are Jeff and Michael McGarvey, Paul Wilson, Harrison Blizzard and Shawn Abbott.
Six members of the Spartans were named to the all-star team.
Arsenault, Hooper, Scott Bell (offensive lineman), Chris Boucher (running back), Chris Parks (running back) and Jason Deveau (linebacker) headlined the all-star squad.
Harrison, Chris Moore (running back), Eric Fallon (receiver), Chris Reid (linebacker) and Alex McGarvey (defensive back) were selected from the Saints while Rothesay's Dan Knox (offensive lineman), Pat Knox (defensive lineman), Mike Cote (running back), Gilliland and Kyle Adams (defensive back) were recognized.
Harbour View places Nick Brien (offensive lineman), Bud Vallis (linebacker) and Scott Lingley (kick returns) on the squad.
The other all-stars were Logan Sleeper (offensive lineman), Alex Killam (running back), Matt Crossman (defensive lineman), Zach Seely (linebacker) and Alex Brown (defensive back) - all from JMA Armstrong.
The 12-man division banquet is slated for Friday in Moncton.
The 12-man final goes Saturday at 4:30 p.m. between Fredericton and MacNaughton in a rematch of last year's championship - won by MacNaughton 10-7.
The St. Mac's comeback
Football Saints rebound from an 0-8 season the year before to make it all the way to the provincial final
Published Thursday November 8th, 2007
Appeared on page B12
SAINT JOHN - Trevor Harrison could barely watch the final moments.
"The last two minutes were so exciting, you could not stop moving even if you wanted to," the St. Malachy's quarterback said of the drama that unfolded in the fourth quarter of Friday's New Brunswick Interscholastic Athletic Association 10-man football league's semifinal against rival Rothesay.
"You had to strap yourself down in order to stay still."
The atmosphere at Shamrock Park was intense as the underdog Saints were clinging to a 19-18 lead against the Red Hawks as the clock wound down, thanks to touchdowns from Walker Blizzard, Eric Fallon and Kyle Matthews.
The Saints, who were outscored 269-31 last season, overcame six turnovers to carry the slim edge in the late going and were attempting to rebound from an 0-8 record in 2006.
Still, it took a spectacular interception by all-star defensive back Alex McGarvey to post the victory and earn a berth in Saturday's provincial final against St. Stephen. Quite an accomplishment for a program that hadn't won more than one game in a season since 1995.
"It was unbelievable," said Harrison, named the 10-man division's player of the year Wednesday. "We started off the season 0-3 and everyone was thinking it was typical St. Mac's football. But we just stepped it up."
The Saints' march into the final rewards the efforts of the coaching staff led by Philip McGarvey, a contingent that was cited as the division's coaches of the year at Wednesday's banquet.
"A lot of them have been with us for four or five years, through lower ranks and up into the high school," said coach McGarvey, whose son Alex made the game-saving defensive play.
"They have had the rough years so they really appreciate it. They were nervous during the game but it was just an unbelievable atmosphere with a great group of kids."
Coach McGarvey says about five years ago, a number of volunteers made a commitment to the program, "one they were going to stay with until they got it right."
In addition to the high school team, a junior team was started and it provided experience for new players, a building block of skills that are now invaluable at the high school level.
"We went in with the idea that there was all sorts of talent (in the school) and there was a good opportunity for more kids to be involved," said coach McGarvey of his staff that includes sons Jeff and Michael, Paul Wilson, Harrison Blizzard and Shawn Abbott.
"This is our fifth year with the program and going in, we knew it would take four or five years to get it going."
Before the recent winning streak, St. Malachy's struggled for a long time. Since that 3-3 campaign in 1995, the team went 5-67-1, a mark that went to 5-70-1 with a 10-0 setback to Rothesay on Sept. 29. But the foundation was developing, with players such as running back Chris Moore and quarterback Harrison leading the way.
Surprisingly, the turning point came in a seven-point loss to St. Stephen Sept. 22, where the Saints scored 27 points, half of what St. Stephen surrendered all season.
"Being the top team, we gave them a run for their money and it woke everybody up," said Harrison. "We said if we can start clicking on both sides of the ball, we knew we could have something here."
Harrison has a number of options to choose from throwing the ball, including Fallon, a league all-star, B.J. Clarke and Walker Blizzard. Moore stars from the backfield by averaging 175 yards a game on the ground and all-star Chris Reid, a dynamo linebacker, anchors the defence with Alex McGarvey.
Prior to the semifinal, the school purchased some treats for the players to distribute marking the special sporting accomplishment.
"We gave out chocolate milk and donuts to the school and we had a little feast ourselves," said Harrison. "They do it for special events and I guess us making it to the final is considered that."
Who knows what will happen if they pull off the final win Saturday?
In the 12-man division final, Fredericton meets MacNaughton at 4:30 p.m. in a rematch of last year's final. MacNaughton won that game 10-7.
Highlanders meet Kats for N.B. title
High school football final to be fought Saturday in Moncton
By Sean Hatchard
Times & Transcript Staff
Published Thursday November 8th, 2007
Appeared on page D1
One of New Brunswick's most storied high school football teams will play the newest powerhouse for the provincial championship on Saturday.
The Fredericton High Black Kats will meet the defending champion Bernice MacNaughton Highlanders in the New Brunswick High School Football League 12-man division final at 4:30 p.m. at Rocky Stone Memorial Field.
The game is a rematch of last year's New Brunswick championship game, which saw the Highlanders edge the Black Kats 10-7 for the Ed Skiffington Trophy.
Fredericton High has won 11 New Brunswick titles since the team was established in 1985, third in the province all-time behind the Harrison Trimble Trojans (14) and Moncton High Purple Knights (13), dating back to 1961.
MacNaughton, in its sixth season in the 12-man division, has already captured two provincial championships.
"We've been able to build a very strong program over a period of time and MacNaughton has had a lot of success pretty quickly. The rivalry has just kind of worked out that way and we've both kind of risen to the top of the pile," said long-time Black Kats head coach Larry Wisniewski.
Saturday's game will mark the fifth consecutive season the teams have met in the playoffs.
Fredericton High blanked MacNaughton 20-0 in a quarter-final in 2003, MacNaughton beat Fredericton High 13-9 for its first New Brunswick title in 2004, Fredericton High eliminated MacNaughton 31-0 in a semifinal en route to its last championship in 2005 and MacNaughton came up the winner in last year's final.
"I think there's a mutual respect between these teams. Fredericton has a good coaching staff and in the final it's been a close gave every year and this year won't be any different," said Highlanders head coach Ed Wasson.
Both MacNaughton (8-0) and Fredericton High (7-0) are the only remaining unbeaten teams in the 12-man division.
The Highlanders have steamrolled every opponent they've faced this season. Their offence, led by quarterback Scott Kelly and running back Dylan Hollohan, has scored a league-best 357 points in eight games.
Their defence, anchored by middle linebacker Ed McNally, has allowed just 14 points, including the first and only touchdown it has given up this season last week against the Oromocto High Blues in a 46-8 cross-over semifinal win.
Fredericton High, which thumped the Tantramar Titans 31-0 in the other semifinal, has outscored the opposition 206-34 in seven games.
"Fredericton will be the biggest challenge of the season for us. They seem to have the most balanced offence we've seen all year and are pretty unpredictable," said MacNaughton defensive lineman Ben Lass.
"We're proud of what we accomplished so far this year, but the season is definitely about the final. Anything else is a disappointment."
Lass, one of 18 veterans back from last season's championship squad, said his team will draw on its experience from last year's final against the Black Kats.
"Last year was all about beating Fredericton in the final, nothing else mattered. It's the same this year except the positions have been switched and we're the favourite and they're the underdog," the Grade 12 veteran said.
"We remember what it was like to be hungry and want to knock off the top team, so we have to respect them. You can never assume you're better than someone else."
With just 12 players back from last year, Wisniewski said revenge isn't the theme for the Black Kats this week.
"We don't have many guys back and the guys we do have back didn't play much last year. Last year was a different group of kids and that was their loss," the head coach said.
"If we had a lot of Grade 11 kids back like MacNaughton does, it would be a little different. But this is a new group and for most of them, it's their first shot at MacNaughton."
Meanwhile, the St. Stephen High Spartans will play the St. Malachy's Saints Saturday in the 10-man division final for the Nick Desilets Memorial Trophy at 1 p.m. at Rocky Stone.