GOTW ON: Steeltown rivalry renewed between CFC50 No. 1 STM and No. 14 CN

It’s rivalry week in the Hammer with the CFC50 No. 1 St. Thomas More Knights ready to pay a visit to the CFC50 No. 14 Cardinal Newman Cardinals on Friday afternoon.


It’s one of the most highly anticipated high school games across Canada each season, and it’s tough to find another rivalry with the same type of animosity on and off the field. Although the Knights have held the upper hand in recent years, including three victories last season on their way to a fourth straight OFSAA title, that just adds more fuel to the fire with the Cardinals searching for a way to get back in the win column,

“Newman and STM have been two of the top high school football teams in Hamilton for years,” says Cardinals’ receiver Marcello da Silva.

“We have gone head to head with them since we’ve been in grade 9, and yet we haven’t beat them. My team and I have been working and focusing hard so we can compete with them this year. We’re hungry for the win this Friday. “

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Newman began their season with a slim loss against CFC50 Catholic Central in a non-conference battle, but have since righted the ship earning victories in their first league games against Bishop Tonnos and Bishop Ryan. They’ve already got some big performances on offence out of dual threat Ryan Ogilvie at receiver, and da Silva scored a key touchdown to help put away Bishop Ryan last week.

Despite ultimately coming away with the win, da Silva says they have to make sure they don’t repeat the same mistakes,

“Offensively and defensively we shot ourselves in the foot with penalties. We can not afford to make these kind of mistakes against STM because we know they can produce from the free and or extra yards.”

On the other side of the field, the Knights will enter full of confidence after a successful start to their drive for five straight OFSAA titles, which would match CFC50 W. F Herman’s record. They began the season with a game down south against Jenison in Michigan, and had no issues proving why they’ve been the top ranked program in Canada for two straight years with a dominant 35-14 victory. Once they got back to Hamilton, they continued their winning ways with a pair of blowouts against Bishop Ryan and St. Jean Brebeuf to begin the regular season, setting up a week three clash with Newman that puts their unbeaten streak that dates back to 2016 on the line.

Putting the streaks aside, CFC150 quarterback Evan Hillock says anytime they face their rivals, they need to be prepared for a fight until the final whistle blows,

“The rivalry between our two schools is easily the biggest in the country. My age group has faced Newman in all four city championships throughout my high school career so far. There’s always great crowds from both sides, and while there’s a lot of history between the two schools, there’s also a ton of respect. It’s going to be an exciting game against a great team on Friday.”

Hillock is their fearless leader under centre, but the Cardinals will need to spread their attention across the depth-chart if they want to limit the Knights’ attack. In the backfield they’ll rely on CFC Prospect Game alumni CFC100 Jawaun Smith to keep the defence honest, and Sito Berrio as a change of pace back who can punish defenders with his powerful running style. They also returned their entire offensive line from a year ago, including Nathan Paulin, Tyler Maddox, CFC150 Darius Bell, Emmanuel Okoli and Jarred Stewart, which is a real rarity in high school football that gives the Knights a solid foundation in the trenches. The final weapon to keep an eye on will be Janiel Gordon, who should become Hillock’s favourite target throughout the season.

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Off the field, Hillock is preparing to make his final decision in the upcoming months after narrowing down his top five schools to Guelph, Laurier, Ottawa, U of T and Western, but that’s business for a later day. Right now he’s locked in on the Cardinals, and says anybody who runs up against the Knights should expect a full team effort in all three phases,

“Scouts should expect a team with tons of talent, coached by the best coaches in the country. Offensively wise we can throw it and run it to a bunch of different guys, we’re a balanced team. We have a defense who is physical and fast, from the front 7 to the secondary, who really sets the tone for our team, and a special teams unit who make big plays and give us an edge in the game.”

We’ve covered the playmakers who could make a splash on offence, but more often than not it’s defence that dictates these rivalry matchups. Newman have an impressive front seven led by linebackers Dante Schirripa and Anthony Moretuzzo, while Yunus Larry and Dmitri Duffield will need to be dealt with on the edge if the Knights want any sort of time to operate in the backfield.

STM will be led by CFC100 Ethan Monaghan and CFC100 Jaylen Smith in the secondary, while linebackers CFC150 Kobi Ofuokwu, Josh Munoz and Riley Macleod should provide pressure up in the box. Both teams take a lot of pride in playing Steeltown tough on defence, and Macleod says they can’t shy away from the physicality,

“I think we just have to stick to our game and take it play by play. We have to be physical and attack the ball, but we have to stay out of the trash talking and just play our game. I think that they should expect a fast, physical style of play with guys that can make plays on both ends of the ball at all positions.”

Expect the unexpected when these two programs take to the field, and it seems like the longer the streak goes on, the pressure surrounding his game only intensifies. It’s been a long time since the Cardinals held the key to the city, but da Silva believes they have the right group of players to reach the pinnacle, and finally bring a provincial banner back to Stoney Creek,

“Football isn’t about one player, so as a team our goal is to beat STM on Friday, then continue with a clean record and to continue on winning our first championship in four years. Once we succeed then we’ll be coming for that ring at OFSAA. I know each and everyone one of us in that locker room have the same goal and as a group of brothers we shall succeed them together.”

Kickoff is set for 1:00pm on Friday at Cardinal Newman.

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