Week 9: November 2-3
Kats earn chance to make amends
By MIKE POWER
Published Monday November 5th, 2007
Appeared on page B1
Fredericton High School Black Kats beat the Tantramar Titans of Sackvile at their own game Saturday.
Playing a team with a reputation for a dominant running game, the Black Kats used their own running attack and a lights out defence to knock off the Titans 31-0 in front of an estimated crowd of 200 in the provincial high school football league semifinal Saturday at FHS Field.
The win earns FHS a trip to Moncton's Rocky Stone Field Saturday to vie for the Ed Skiffington Trophy, emblematic of high school football supremacy in the 12-man division. It also gets the Black Kats a rematch with the Bernice MacNaughton High School Highlanders who knocked off the Kats in last season's championship game. Highlanders defeated Oromocto High 46-8 Friday night in Moncton in the other league semi.
Saturday's semifinal was the first meeting of the season between FHS and the Titans who came in on a six game winning streak and with a reputation for being able to wear down opponents behind heavyweight running back Calum Hardie.
Hardie was indeed quite a weapon but not enough to dent the Fredericton end zone. The big back ran for 91 yards on 16 carries but the FHS defensive line kept to him to six yard or less on all but two of those attempts. The Titans tried to go more and more to the smaller faster Jake Mundle out of the backfield. But that didn't really work either.
"It was a tough day for us," said FHS offensive lineman Zac Cann. "But we were ready for it. On the first play of the game we stuffed (Hardie) and kept him to negative yardage. That set the tone for the day."
Indeed, the Black Kats seemed very well prepared for the Tantramar offensive scheme.
"They didn't surprise us," Cann said. "The coaches had us prepared for just about everything they did. We've been practicing really hard, running hills getting physically ready for this."
And while the defence was keeping the Titans off the boil, the FHS offence was building up a nice soft cushion made of points.
For the third week in a row, FHS struck for two early touchdowns and grabbed the game by the throat. On their first offensive series the Kats got good field position after a short Tantramar punt. From there it took three passes for the score as quarterback Jeff Madsen hit Dave Dolan in the end zone for a five yard scoring strike. Cann hit the convert cleanly to make it 7-0 after just 4:40 of play.
On the ensuing series the Titans were backed up to their goal line after Cann's booming kickoff. Two running plays resulted in no gain and a punt attempt by Hardie. However the kick, from inside the end zone, hit the crossbar on the goal post and was recovered at the one by FHS. On their first try, FHS doubled the lead on a one-yard plunge by Devin Kearney and a Cann convert.
"I think that really hurt them," Kearney said. "It left them a little back on their heels. It also gave us a huge advantage because they really lost some confidence in their own game and it allowed us to manage the clock."
The home side's grip on the game got tighter still early in the second quarter when Hardie fumbled and FHS marched 75 yards on four plays to score a third touchdown. A 50 yard pass and dash from Madsen to Corey Janes set the stage for a seven yard scoring end around for Niels Thakkar and the Cann convert. It would be the last of the first half scoring coming with 9:43 remaining until the half.
"That really did it," Kearney said. "It allowed us to bang away with the running game and control of the clock. With (Tantramar) still trying to run as well, it really ran the clock out quickly."
Kearney would almost match Hardie on the ground with 86 yards on 10 carries while Thakkar ran for 108 yards on five carries including a 61-yard dash in the fourth quarter.
A 30 yard field goal by Cann was the only scoring of the third quarter and a fourth quarter 11 yard scoring pass from Madsen to Dolan rounded out the scoring.
Defending champs earn right to reclaim N.B. crown
MacNaughton Highlanders thump Oromocto Blue 46-8, await winner of today's Black Kats-Titans clash to play for high school football title
By Sean Hatchard
Times & Transcript Staff
Published Saturday November 3rd, 2007
Appeared on page C1
The Bernice MacNaughton Highlanders made quick work of each and every opponent they faced in the Eastern Conference of the New Brunswick High School Football League.
Their first meeting against a Western Conference team proved to be no different.
The defending provincial champion Highlanders punched their ticket to the New Brunswick 12-man division final by thumping the Oromocto High Blues 46-8 in a cross-over semifinal at Rocky Stone Memorial Field last night.
The other semifinal today will see the Fredericton High Black Kats host the Tantramar Titans at 1 p.m. The winner will meet MacNaugton in the provincial championship game next Saturday at Rocky Stone.
"This has certainly been our goal from Day 1 of the season. Actually, we've been thinking of getting back to the final since last year because we knew we had a lot of guys coming back and knew we would be a contender again," said Highlanders running back/free safety Dylan Hollohan, who paced the winners with three touchdowns, two on runs and another on an interception return.
"It feels great to be going back to the final without any disappointments along the way."
MacNaughton won the Eastern Conference regular season title with a 6-0 record. Oromocto High finished third in the Western Conference at 3-2.
The Highlanders are now unbeaten in eight games and have outscored their opponents 357-14. The one big play the Blues managed last night was a third-quarter 67-yard touchdown pass by quarterback Jordan Heather to Rob Goodwin. It was the first touchdown the MacNaughton defence gave up this season, breaking a stretch of 369 minutes and 14 seconds without allowing a major.
The Highlanders offence has been just as impressive, scoring a league-best 357 points in eight games.
Looking like another unbeaten team out there, the New England Patriots, MacNaughton is making a habit of scoring on its first series. After forcing Oromocto High to punt, the Highlanders drove down field and Scott Kelly scored on an one-yard quarterback keep and the rout was on.
MacNaughton led 32-1 at halftime.
Kelly went on to score again on a four-yard run and also threw a 12-yard touchdown strike to Thomas Blight. Hollohan did most of his work on the ground, finding the end zone on runs of 26 and 34 yards. He also returned an interception 70 yards for his third touchdown of the evening.
Blight kicked a 27-yard field goal, six converts and a single in the victory.
The Highlanders defence, anchored by Hollohan and Corbin MacLean in the secondary, was able to contain the strong passing game of the Blues. Heather, who wasn't helped by a number of dropped balls, felt pressure in the pocket and could only find Goodwin deep the one time.
"They have a tremendous quarterback, but I think our defence as a team took away their main weapon and that was obviously very important," said MacNaughton head coach Ed Wasson.
Oromocto High bench boss Rob Wilson called the Highlanders a championship calibre team.
"They are a well-coached team with a lot of depth and are quicker than any team we've seen this year. That's a nice team right there," he said.
"We didn't have the game offensively we would have liked. We didn't take advantage of the situations we had, but that was also because they played strong defensively."
Hollohan said the semifinal contest against the Blues was his team's biggest mental test of the season.
"It's definitely a relief because going up against a team like that, it's pretty unpredictable. With a passing game like that, you just never know what can happen and you saw that with their touchdown," the Grade 12 veteran said.
"We hadn't seen them play and didn't totally know what to expect, so we're pretty glad to get out of this with a win."
Meanwhile, the fourth-place J.M.A. Armstrong Cougars (2-4) visit the first-place St. Stephen High Spartans (6-0) today at 1 p.m. in a 10-man division semifinal.
Kats ready to tackle the Titans
By MIKE POWER
Published Friday November 2nd, 2007
Appeared on page B1
The Fredericton High School Black Kats aren't the Kats they used to be, and that's not such a bad thing.
This year's edition of the Black Kats football team has found they sometimes have to use many of their nine lives to get the same results FHS teams of the past used to get with relative ease.
The 2007 edition of the dynasty formerly known as the dominating Black Kats has flown solidly under the radar devoid of the star power at key positions their predecessors have had.
And yet they have achieved the same results as those Kats from the past. FHS finished the regular season undefeated at 5-0 and breezed by the Leo Hayes Lions 43-0 in the first round of the playoffs a week ago.
Now as they prepare to host the Tantramar Titans of Sackville in a provincial semifinal, kickoff is 1 p.m. at FHS field Saturday, they are enjoying being taken a little lightly.
"Even last year with guys like Andrew Hickey and Elliot Thompson I don't think we were taken as seriously as we should have been," said FHS offensive guard Andy Ouellette. "Then this year we came into a season uncertain who we would have out, who was coming back, and we have been a real good story in how we have handled the league.
"I think we have deserved to win every game and you could say that we have dominated every team, but we've really had to work at it."
The Titans are one of the old rivals of the FHS program, not in recent years, but they do have history. The Titans went 5-1 in the Eastern Conference, losing their first game to the first place Bernice MacNaughton Highlanders and rolling undefeated since. Their most recent win was 46-6 over Harrison Trimble in last week's playoff opener.
Other than what they have seen in film or heard from coaches the Black Kats go in Saturday against a team they know little about.
"I always want to go into any game thinking it starts from 0-0," Ouellette said. "No one has an advantage. I like to think the first play sets the tone for the game and go from there. I like to make a statement on that first play and go on from there and that's all we can do (Saturday)."
If the Black Kats lack a group of big name individual stars they make up for it with units that are among the best in the province and none more than the offensive line. It was that group that sprung running back Niels Thakkar for four touchdown runs last week against Leo Hayes.
The group of Ouellette, Cody Reynolds, Chris Smith, Paul Anderson and Bill Gregg controlled every aspect of the game they were involved in.
"They played their best game of the year," Thakkar said. "I scored the (four) touchdowns but I don't get them if it wasn't for my line. I just followed them until the got me free and then I just ran."
The FHS O-line will be front and centre again Saturday and like the Kats' team overall they are a unit that may not get the credit they deserve all the time, until now perhaps.
"All year we've been looked on as a smallish line," Ouellette said. "But we've proven in the last games we've played that size isn't the only factor. As a group we bring technical skills and an understanding of the game.
"For me playing on the O-line is the most fun you can have in this game, we control the game, we set the tone. A good offensive line can control the clock when you have a lead or make things happen in a close game."
In the other semifinal, to be played at Moncton's Rocky Stone Park tonight at 7 p.m. the Oromocto Beaver Brokerage Blues will be out to pull off another upset in the hopes of keeping their season alive (see separate story).
While last week's defeat of the second place in the west Saint John Greyhounds by the third-place Blues was considered mild a win this week would be huge. The Blues face the unbeaten champions of the east and the defending provincial champions from Bernice MacNaughton. The Highlanders have outscored opponents 311-6 in seven games.
Highlanders keep their feet on the ground
MacNaughton High squad not getting overconfident about chances at taking provincial title
By Sean Hatchard
Times & Transcript Staff
Published Thursday November 1st, 2007
Appeared on page D1
The Bernice MacNaughton Highlanders have yet to lose a game this season, outscored their opponents 311-6 in seven games and are just two wins away from capturing their second consecutive New Brunswick High School Football League championship.
But running back Dylan Hollohan and his teammates know the Ed Skiffington Trophy isn't handed out in September or October. It's the November football that counts most.
"It's tempting to look ahead and I can say winning the championship last year was one of the best feelings I've had in my life, but we still have our work cut out for us. The coaches have done a good job of keeping us in check," Hollohan, a Grade 12 senior, said this week.
"We know it's never going to be a cake-walk. Winning a provincial championship isn't easy, I don't care how dominating your team has been."
MacNaughton can punch its ticket to the New Brunswick 12-man division championship game with a win over the Oromocto High Blues in a semifinal Friday at 7 p.m. at Rocky Stone Memorial Field.
The other semifinal features the Tantramar Titans and Fredericton High Black Kats Saturday at 1 p.m. in Fredericton.
The winners will meet in the provincial final Nov. 10 at Rocky Stone.
Unlike last season when the Highlanders were underdogs and upset Fredericton High 10-7 in the championship game, they are clearly this year's favourite.
MacNaughton won the Eastern Conference with a perfect 6-0 record and thumped the Riverview High Royals 55-0 in a quarter-final last week. The Highlanders have shut out their opponents all but once and their smallest margin of victory has been 20 points.
"We're extremely similar to last year's team, we have the same type of athletes in the same positions. We're always a fast team at MacNaughton and we have a lot of strengths to go with our speed," said Hollohan, who also plays free safety and returns kicks for the Highlanders.
"I knew our defence would be good -- six points against is unbelievable and I'm surprised by that number -- but I'm not surprised by the consistency. It's our offence that has really surprised me. We've really come together and put points up against some serious defences."
Oromocto High, powered by the arm of quarterback Jordan Heather, finished third in the Western Conference with a 3-2 record. The Blues edged the Saint John High Greyhounds 9-7 in last week's quarter-final.
"Saint John always has a good team and they just got beat by Oromocto, so we know it won't be an easy game," Hollohan, 17, said.
"Oromocto has a six-pack offence just like Fredericton ran in last year's final against us, but I think we have the athletes to pull it off. We have pretty much the same secondary as last year and our defence has been there for us all season long."
Tantramar at Fredericton High
The Black Kats join the Highlanders as the only remaining unbeaten teams in the 12-man division. They finished first in the Western Conference with a 5-0 record and blanked the Leo Hayes Lions 43-0 in a quarter-final last week.
The Titans lost their opening game of the season, but moved slotback Calum Hardie to running back and then reeled off five straight wins to place second in the Eastern Conference at 5-1. They defeated the Harrison Trimble Trojans 44-6 in last week's quarter-final.
Tantramar has been eliminated by Fredericton High on the road in the playoffs in each of the past two seasons.
"We have the experience to know what it will be like there now. We know the field, we know the jungle and the music and we'll be prepared for it. We need to ignore all the hype and just play good football," said Titans head coach Dave Burns.
"As far as coming into this time of the season playing our best football, this is the best we've looked in the last three years. We're pretty solid on both sides of the ball and I think we have a shot at them this time."
Meanwhile, the fourth-place J.M.A. Armstrong Cougars (2-4) visit the first-place St. Stephen High Spartans (6-0) Saturday at 1 p.m. in a 10-man division semifinal.The other semifinal will see the second-place Rothesay High Redhawks (4-2) host the third-place St. Malachy's Saints (3-3) Friday at 7 p.m.