High school roundup CHAMPIONSHIP (ON – SIMCOE) [10]: CFC50 Tritons dethrone CFC50 Knights in GBSSA final, advance to first OFSAA Bowl in school history

And then there were two.

In a matchup of undefeated, CFC50 sqauds, the Nantyr Shores Tritons of the Simcoe County Athletics Association (SCAA) and St. Joan of Arc Knights of the Catholic School Athletics of Simcoe County (CSASC) did battle last Thursday to determine who would represent the Georgian Bay Secondary Schools Association (GBSSA) at the National Capital Bowl on November 27.


GBSSA Final – Thursday November 16

[1] St. Joan of Arc Knights (7-0) vs. [1] Nantyr Shores Tritons (9-0) 

This was the first matchup between these two teams since the two Simcoe County school boards began playing in separate leagues in 2015. They won all 16 of their combined games to get to this point, where one team’s long streak would end and the other’s would continue onto Hamilton and the 2017 National Capital Bowl.

The first quarter was more about the teams getting their legs underneath them, with not much to be had offensively for either club. Things were different in the second, though, as the Tritons would take the first lead of the game. They would take advantage of a Justin Winn pass that was picked off by Jackson Raeburn on the last play of the opening frame. On the next play, Spencer Cropper and Dylan Beattie would connect on a long-bomb for 46 yards, and then, to cap off the series, Beattie used his legs to put his team in front. He took the give from Cropper, scampered to his left and took it to the house for the first points of the contest. He would then kick the point after to make it 7-0 Tritons.

They would score off another turnover later in the frame. Knights’ running back Ish Sookwah had the ball punched out of his arms and Kieren Stevenson would recover it for Nantyr. From there, a big run play by Dave Johnson set up an easy touchdown from three yards out for Gavin Coffin, to give the SCAA representatives a two-score lead.

The Knights, though, weren’t going away. They showed flashes in the first half of being able to put drives together, but were never able to finish them. That was until late in the first half, when Winn and Sookwah hooking up on a 30-yard pass play to begin the series. Then, after a couple questionable nylon tosses, JOA would hit paydirt on a Winn-to-Jeremy Hussey connection, which made it 13-7, and got the Knights back into it heading to the second half.

After just a rouge off a Beattie punt in the third, there were 12 minutes left to decide it. Would the Knights come back and avenge a 2016 GBSSA Finals loss to Bear Creek and head to another OFSAA? Or would the Tritons hold on and head to their first ever Bowl game?

The Tritons would provide the answer. First, Beattie would be on the other end of another Cropper pass – this time in the end zone – which made it 21-7 on the 5th-year-Tritons’ second major of the day. And later, off another Sookwah fumble, Jordan Austin would run it in on the only play of the drive, which put it away for good, at 28-7, to send Nantyr to its first ever OFSAA Bowl game in its 17-year history.

And they couldn’t be happier about it.

“Honestly it means everything,” said Head Coach Clark Larmon. “It’s a war to win the GBSSA championship and it wears on you mentally as a coach regardless of your success. The hours devoted to football is tremendous, so personally this championship reaffirms what we put in and that all our defeats in the past had a purpose.

“I’m not sure if the [school] community itself understands how big an accomplishment this is,” he added. “We are a school of 1200 kids within a relatively small community in a lower socioeconomic area. There are a ton of reasons for this school not to win, which makes this group of kids and this championship that much more special.”

The Tritons forced 8 JOA turnovers in this one – a number that almost never happens against what was up until recently the powerhouse of Simcoe County football for the last decade or longer. But the Tritons preparation was key in collecting the eight takeaways, and their offence – which didn’t turn the ball over once – did its part in winning the turnover battle, which is oftentimes what wins championships.

“Turnovers were a focus,” Larmon admitted. “We had an idea of where they wanted to go in the air. Our defence hasn’t seen an air attack like JOA all year, they responded rather well.  Offensively we had a commitment to zero turnovers, we believed one could be the difference.”

Another thing that wins games in the playoffs is strong play up front. Both the Tritons offensive and defensive line were dominant for much of the game, as was the case all season. When asked the key to their success, Larmon attributes it to their unwavering commitment, as well as their ability to ‘take the bull by the horns,’ if you will, and be anchors for the entirety of their respective units.

“Leadership!” he exclaimed. “Our [offensive and defensive] lines were awesome all year, mostly because of practice.  If the best practices against the best you get better, fast. Our veterans were awesome and rarely missed a practice they also have been together for 2 years so they communicate fronts and responsibilities pre snap. It’s fun to watch. We have a saying the game is won in the trenches, [and] the pretty boys decide by how much.”

It was a close game heading to the 4th, and the Knights showed a few times they have the ability to move the ball. It wasn’t always easy, but the Tritons battled, forced turnovers at critical times and came away with a character-filled victory.

“Many of these kids are at least 2 sport athletes, several of which won GB rugby with Mike [Tutty] and I last year. We lost a last-second game winning try [at OFSSA] to Oakville Trafalger who eventually won the gold handily,” he said. “Point is these kids have been through wars together and come out on winning and losing sides. You learn a lot more from losing; they weren’t about to let it happen again.”

Just three years ago, the Tritons didn’t even field a senior football team. Now, after losing just one game in the last two seasons, they’re heading to OFSAA for the first time. It has really been a remarkable turnaround that started at the top. Larmon is interested to see what next year brings now that many of his veteran pieces are moving onto bigger and better things.

“I attribute much of our recent success to Mike Tutty. The hours he puts in behind the scenes is second to none,” said the Tritons bench boss. “He also has a great understanding of not only what we need to do to win but also what we need to take away in order to win as well.  His adjustments are unreal and his delivery to the kids is exceptional.  Just don’t tell him I said that.

“Next year is a reload year for us for sure.  We started with this group in junior.  So now we need to build those relationships with a new group.”

It’s difficult to get anywhere without that strong group of veteran talent to carry the team on its shoulders. The Tritons are stacked with players of that ilk all over the field, so it’s no surprise they are where they are.

“Our teams are always built around our personnel, regardless of how good we are,” Larmon said. “When you add core leadership (which we had ton of) like Steven Noble who can play both sides, know all our offensive plays, call the defence and be undersized and the best player in the league…you build off him – and we did.”

And where the Tritons are is in the OFSAA Bowl Festival – for the first time ever. It’s difficult to prepare for a team from as much as four-and-a-half-hours away, so the Tritons will be working hard on keeping crisp and focussed on the task at hand, while also taking some time to savour what will be – for many of these players – the opportunity of a lifetime.

“It’s important we enjoy the moment. Speaking from experience [in rugby], championships of this caliber are hard to come by,” he said. “Our focus will be light practice three days this week focusing on mentally staying sharp after such a big win.  This game is a bonus and the kids are excited.

“As far as prepping for whomever we play, it’s difficult. We won’t know [until] Wednesday so game film is out. It will be mostly adjustments on the fly, which isn’t ideal, but these are a special group of kids.”

Photo: The Barrie Examiner

GBSSA Champions: CFC50 Nantyr Shores Tritons (SCAA)

EOSSAA Champions: Arnprior Rapids (UOVHSAA)

OFSAA National Capital Bowl – Monday, November 27

[1] CFC50 Nantyr Shores Tritons (10-0) {GBSSA} vs. Arnprior Rapids (9-1) {EOSSAA} – 4:00 pm (Tim Hortons Field, Hamilton)


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