Week 9: November 1
|Hampton High Huskies Greg Armstrong loses the ball as he is tackled by MacNaughton Highlanders Ben Leger during the first half at Rocky Stone Memorial Field on Saturday.|
|Highlanders headed to N.B. final
Riverview High falls to Saint John High in provincial high school football semifinals
Published in the Times-Transcript on Nov. 3
Appeared on page B1
The Bernice MacNaughton Highlanders are going back to the big dance.
The two-time defending New Brunswick High School Football League championship blanked the Hampton High Huskies 36-0 in a provincial semifinal Saturday at Rocky Stone Memorial Field to advance to the league championship game for the third straight year and the fifth time in the last seven years.
The Highlanders will meet the Saint John High Greyhounds in the provincial final Saturday at 1 p.m. at Rocky Stone. Saint John High defeated the Riverview High Royals 21-8 in the other semifinal Saturday in Saint John.
"It feels unbelievable to be going back to the final again. We've put together quite the run here," said Bernice MacNaughton head coach Ed Wasson, whose team is on a 23-game winning streak.
Thomas Blight booted the opening kickoff 85 yards for a single and the Highlanders never looked back, taking a 22-0 lead into halftime.
Bernice MacNaughton is a perfect 8-0 on the season.
"Our kids executed when they had to and we controlled the game right from the get-go and never really let Hampton get going," said Wasson. "Hampton is a well-disciplined and well-coached team and I think they could be dangerous if you let them get going."
Eric Rioux ran for 96 yards and two first-half touchdowns to lead the Highlanders, who finished with 340 yards of total offence, including 234 on the ground. Jordan Haley, the other half of the Bernice MacNaughton running back tandem, added 70 rushing yards.
The game also saw the return of third-year quarterback Scott Kelly, who had missed the previous two games with a foot injury. Kelly played the first half and the first series of the second half before he was given the rest of the afternoon off.
"Scott didn't show any signs of being rusty even though it was a tough day to throw with the wind," said Wasson. "He goes in there and he doesn't put you in a bad position. He controls the game well."
Kelly threw a 47-yard touchdown pass to Blake Stewart and backup quarterback Cameron Wade scored twice on a pair of short runs. Rioux found the end zone on 14- and 27-yard runs while Blight kicked converts.
Chris Waddell and Stewart each had an interception for the winners.
In Saint John, Matt Doucet scored a pair of touchdowns, including an 82-yard burst to set an early tone, and receiver Chris Tilley snared a major on a 28-yard pass seconds before halftime as the Greyhounds earned a berth in the provincial final for the first time since 1981.
Saint John High scored 14-unanswered points to snap a 7-7 tie and take a 21-7 lead to the intermission. The Greyhounds won the 2003 provincial 10-man division championship, but were 0-2 in provincial 12-man semifinals since rejoining that conference in 2004.
Brett McNeil scored the lone touchdown for the Royals, who were looking for their first appearance in the championship game since 1980. Riverview High had just lost once in its previous seven contests.
|Mike Morgan of the Saint John High Greyhounds breaks up a pass to Riverview Royals receiver Anthony Picard during first-half action at Millidgeville Field Saturday. The Greyhounds advanced to the New Brunswick Interscholastic Athletic Association high school football championship game next Saturday with a 21-8 win.|
|Greyhounds heading back to title game
Football: Saint John High, MacNaughton advance to provincial championship tilt
By Kevin Barrett
Published in the Telegraph-Journal on Nov. 3
Appeared on page B4
SAINT JOHN - It's been more than a generation for the Saint John Greyhounds but they are headed back to the New Brunswick Interscholastic Athletic Association high school football championship.
Thanks to an outstanding 21-8 victory over the Riverview Royals in Saturday's provincial semifinal, the Greyhounds have advanced to the Ed Skiffington Cup final against the two-time defending champion Bernice MacNaughton Highlanders Saturday at 1 p.m. at Rocky Stone Field. The Highlanders blanked the Hampton Huskies 36-0 Saturday to advance.
"We know we haven't been there in more than 20 years but everyone is pretty excited," said Saint John quarterback Dallas Ballard. "I am not nervous yet. We are all just happy to keep playing."
Matt Doucet scored a pair of touchdowns, including an 82-yard burst to set an early tone while receiver Chris Tilley snared a major on a 28-yard pass seconds before halftime as the Greyhounds scored 14-unanswered points to snap a 7-7 tie and take a 21-7 lead to the intermission.
In the second half, their stingy defence allowed just a single point as they advanced to the provincial final for the first time since 1981.
MacNaughton blanked Hampton 36-0 in the other semifinal.
"The guys were pretty excited after the game," said Saint John head coach Dave Grandy. "We were very happy to get the monkey off our backs and advance to the final. This is huge for us."
Saint John's Dan Duplessis booted three conversions.
With the win, Saint John improved to 9-0 on the season and defeated a Riverview squad that had just lost once in its previous seven contests.
"We came out and played our brand of football," Ballard said. "They were a good team and they fought hard but we just played a little bit stronger."
Saint John won the 2003 provincial 10-man division championship but was 0-2 in provincial 12-man semifinals since rejoining that conference in 2004.
Saturday, Doucet got things going for the Greyhounds with his long run for a 7-0 lead but the Royals got back into the game on weird play.
Riverview appeared set for a field goal after a long drive but the kick was blocked. However, a Greyhounds defender touched it and the Royals recovered on the one-yard line where Brett MacNeil quicky punched it in to tie the contest.
But Doucet on a 12-yard scamper and Tilley on a big pass play upped the advantage to 21-7 late in the first half for firm control.
"It was a real team effort," said Grandy. "They played well on all sides of the ball."
Doucet's production gives him eight touchdowns in the Greyhounds three playoff victories. He registered three against Simonds in the opening round added three more against Fredericton in a 34-13 during the provincial quarter-final Oct. 24.
"He's had a solid, solid playoff," Ballard said. "He is so fast and when he cuts, people have a hard time tackling him."
The halftime cushion was more than comforting, said Grandy, considering the way the first half developed.
"We were excited," Grandy said. 'At that point, we knew they had one touchdown but it came after we had blocked a field goal."
The last time the Greyhounds advance to the provincial final, they fell to Tantramar in 1981. In 1979, Saint John lost to Moncton in the championship game.
Saint John and MacNaughton have only played against one another four times. MacNaughton took the first game - when both schools were AA - 33-27. In the playoffs that year, Saint John earned a 22-0 victory.
In 2005, Saint John edged MacNaughton 29-26 in the regular season.
In the 2006 provincial semifinal, MacNaughton blasted Saint John 46-0 en route to the NBIAA championship.
Highlanders 36 Huskies 0
In Moncton, the two-time defending NBIAA champion Bernice MacNaughton Highlanders blanked the Hampton High Huskies 36-0 in a provincial semifinal Saturday at Rocky Stone Memorial Field.
Thomas Blight booted the opening kickoff 85 yards for a single and the Highlanders never looked back from there, taking a 22-0 lead into halftime. Bernice MacNaughton is 8-0 on the season.
Eric Rioux ran for 96 yards and two first-half touchdowns to lead the Highlanders, who finished with 340 yards of offence, including 234 on the ground. Jordan Haley added 70 rushing yards.
|Highlanders, Royals eye championship berths
High school football semifinals set for Moncton, Saint John today
By Sean Hatchard
Published in the Times-Transcript on Nov. 1
Appeared on page C1
The Bernice MacNaughton Highlanders have a chance to add to their already extensive New Brunswick High School Football League playoff résumé today.
The Riverview High Royals, meanwhile, have an opportunity to get over a major post-season hump.
The Highlanders and Royals are each one win away from getting to the provincial championship game next Saturday at Moncton's Rocky Stone Memorial Field. Two-time defending champion Bernice MacNaughton hosts the Hampton High Huskies at Rocky Stone and Riverview High visits the Saint John High Greyhounds in today's 1 p.m. semifinals.
The Highlanders know all about playoff glory. The school that is riding a 22-game winning streak -- its last loss came Sept. 29, 2006 -- has made the playoffs in each of the previous six seasons since it joined the league in 2002. It has won the New Brunswick championship three times and reached the final on another occasion.
Seventeen players are back from last year's team, which defeated the Fredericton High Black Kats 23-0 in the provincial final.
"We've been here before and I think it's a case of excitement more so than nerves. A lot of our older kids are telling the younger ones some playoff stories," Bernice MacNaughton head coach Ed Wasson said last night. "Each week it's just building a little more and more."
The Highlanders placed first in the Eastern Conference with a 6-0 regular-season record. The Huskies were first in the West Division at 4-1.
Wasson said third-year quarterback Scott Kelly, who has missed the last two games with a foot injury, may play today. Kelly has guided the team to back-to-back provincial titles. If Kelly isn't able to go, backup Cameron Wade, who has played superb in his absence, will get the start.
"We're pretty fortunate that we have two great quarterbacks and we feel comfortable with both," Wasson said.
The Bernice MacNaughton defence -- led by linebacker Ben Leger, defensive lineman Nick Bauer and Wade and Blake Stewart in the secondary -- will be out to contain the Hampton High running back tandem of Corey O'Toole and Mitch O'Neill.
Riverview High will look to punch its ticket to the provincial final today for the first time since 1980. The Royals lost to the Tantramar Titans in the 1980 New Brunswick championship game.
Riverview High has made the semifinal round seven times in the past 14 years, but has lost each time.
"We're pretty excited because we didn't know if we'd get this far this year. We think we might be a year ahead of schedule," said Royals head coach Guy Messervier.
Messervier isn't concerned with a lack of playoff experience on his roster. A number of his players were members of New Brunswick peewee and bantam championship teams.
"Regardless if we're leading or trailing, we always seem to get stronger as the game goes on and that's a good sign. Nobody panics if things aren't going well," the coach said.
Riverview High finished second in the Eastern Conference with a 5-1 record while Saint John High led the South Division at 5-0.
The Greyhounds have averaged more than 50 points per game and sport a perfect 8-0 overall record. They've surrendered just 48 points in their eight wins.
"They have a big running game and try to be physical and push you around," said Messervier, whose defence is anchored by linebacker Nevarre Sokolowski and safety Cameron Wilson. "It's going to be interesting. Our strength is our defence, their strength is their offence, so we'll see who does best."
|Hampton Huskies quarterback Pat O'Brien, 11, has provided a steady support for the team's impressive ground game this season in the New Brunswick Interscholastic Athletic Association High School Football League. O'Brien and his teammates travel to Moncton Saturday in one of two NBIAA semifinal contests. Saint John hosts Riverview Saturday at 1 p.m. in the other semifinal at Millidgeville Field.|
|Stout defences lead charge into provincial
High school: Ability to shut teams down complements high-powered offensive units
By Kevin Barrett
Published in the Telegraph-Journal on Oct. 31
Appeared on page B8
As is the case in any post-season success, the stars can't shine unless there is ample support from their teammates.
This season, both the Saint John Greyhounds and Hampton Huskies can attribute their playoff progress in the New Brunswick High School Football League playoffs to depth in the trenches.
It's a component that's placed both teams in provincial semifinal contests Saturday, just one step away from the NBIAA final in Moncton on Nov. 8.
The Greyhounds have averaged more than 50 points per game and sport a perfect 8-0 record heading into Saturday's contest against Riverview at 1 p.m. at Millidgeville Field.
However, in last Friday's provincial quarter-final against Fredericton, the final score read 34-13 but the turning point came late in the first half, when outside linebacker Dan Duplessis intercepted a pass near midfield, thwarting a potential go-ahead Fredericton drive. It lead to a Caleb Jones touchdown that made the score 14-6 at the intermission.
"We have been scoring a lot of points but we have played teams like Fredericton, St. Malachy's and St. Stephen that have high-powered offences and we have been shutting them down," said the 5-foot-10, Grade 11 Duplessis, who also plays soccer and was an easy pick as the team's kicker.
In addition, the Kats had just one major play in the second half when the game stood in the balance. And that effective defensive ability kept giving the offence the ball, often in great field position, a factor in the final 18 minutes, when the Greyhounds scored three touchdowns.
Senior middle linebacker Alex Hachey says there are no real secrets on his side of the ball.
"The way I see it, we put our heads down and play smash-mouth football," Hachey said. "Basically, we give it everything we have got to try to stop the run and intercept as many passes as we can."
He feels the team carries a distinct advantage by playing at home Saturday but there is more to consider as with any playoff contest, comes the potential of seniors playing for playing their last high school game.
And that adds plenty of motivational fuel.
"Most definitely," Hachey said. "Knowing that this could be the last game of my career is a pretty big thing."
The Hounds have surrendered just 48 points in their eight wins but that didn't stop head coach Dave Grandy from scouting Riverview's quarter-final win over Moncton.
While impressed with many Royals players, he thinks Riverview's kicker Matt Archibald is so good, he can dramatically impact the game.
"Field position is going to be a battle in this game," said Grandy. "He is a great athlete and he had great potential to go onto the next level."
In Hampton, the Huskies have used the powerful running game of Corey O'Toole and Mitch O'Neill to advance to a showdown last Saturday with St. Malachy's.
But Huskies senior Pat O'Brien, a quiet, yet effective leader at quarterback, threw a pair of touchdowns in the 48-32 victory.
It was the second highest output of the year and a boost of confidence entering Saturday's 1 p.m. semifinal against MacNaughton, the two-time defending provincial champions.
"Every game, I am feeling more comfortable because of the experience I am getting," O'Brien said. "In the last game, we passed probable more than we have all year and it gave me a lot of confidence."
Head coach Andrew Peters says O'Brien's best trait, in addition to his dedication, is that he manages a good game.
"He works hard and we have noticed a great improvement from the start of the camp until now," Peters said. "That is a reflection of his hard work and his dedication."
O'Brien served as a backup quarterback and also saw duty on the defensive line in 2007.
This year, as the season developed, so did his skills and last weekend's victory over the Saints was one of his best performances of the year.
"We feel pretty good as long as both sides of the ball show up to play," O'Brien said.
Hampton, 4-1 in the regular season, travels to Moncton to meet the two-time defending champion Bernice MacNaughton, which is 7-0.
"They have been in the big game four of the past six years, so we know they are putting a good program out and it is a tall order for us," Peters said. "Our kids are feeling pretty good about it."