OFSAA Football Festival Preview (Eastern Bowl): #CFC50 No. 49 Paul Dwyer get chance to defend their Eastern Bowl title versus No. 12 St. Thomas More

Feature photo courtesy of Gord Bowes/Hamilton News

It’ll be the host city’s lone representative kicking off day one at the festival with the #CFC50 No. 12 St. Thomas More Knights looking to claim another bowl for their collection when they take on the #CFC50 No. 49 Paul Dwyer Saints in the Eastern Bowl.

This game presents a unique situation compared to the rest of the bowl games, with the Saints having a chance to defend their Eastern Bowl crown after defeating St. Joan of Arc 35-7 in the very same game last season.

They shouldn’t expect such an easy path to victory this time around, however, with the Knights coming into this game riding a wave of confidence on the backs of two massive wins in the HWCAA finals and GHAC semifinals. Facing fellow #CFC50 squads Cardinal Newman and Holy Trinity out of Oakville, they went on to outscore their opponents 89-24 when the games entered do or die mode, which is exactly what the Knights’ coaching staff has preached all season,

“Our motto since the off-season has been to ‘Finish.’” says St. Thomas More Head Coach, Claudio Silvestri. “We have done that in the championship and GHAC, and it will be our motto for Monday. We have gelled even more as a team each week, and our trust in each other has allowed us to perform at the highest of levels.”

One Knight who has been performing at a near superhuman level is #CFC100 Michael Chris-Ike, who put on a clinic versus Newman rushing for 304 yards and four touchdowns, which he then followed up with another pair of majors in their blowout victory over Holy Trinity in the GHAC semifinals. As good as Chris-Ike is though, one player cannot make a team, and St. Thomas More are privileged enough to have a bevy of talent all over the depth chart that Paul Dwyer will need to be aware of.

In front of every great running back tends to be a monstrous offensive line, and it’s no different in this case with John DiBerardo, Scotty Johnston, Karol Marynowicz, Justin McIsaac and Tyrese Romero creating space for Knights’ offensive weapons to do damage all season long. Calling the shots on offence is the underrated Zach Odoardi, who has been able to spread the ball around with high efficiency from his quarterback position and is also a threat run the ball if needed. When Chris-Ike doesn’t have the ball in his hands, the Saints defence cannot let off the gas with Jacob Baker posing as a huge threat out of the backfield, and swiss army knife Edgerrin Williams seemingly popping up wherever he is needed to make a big play.

Luckily for Paul Dwyer though, they haven’t run into any massive issues on defence yet this season, but without proper preparation that of course can all change. The Saints’ defence has been a reliable force allowing no more than 12 points in any game this season, and have averaged just 4.8 points against per contest, providing a good test for the high powered St. Thomas More offence. Experience is something that Paul Dwyer will also have going for them after clinching their third straight LOSSA title to go along with their third straight league title, which is a fact that is not being overlooked by the Knights’ Offensive Coordinator Rob Fuciarelli,

“They are a talented team in their third straight OFSAA Bowl, they will put up a good fight.” Fuciarelli explains. “In the short days of preparation for OFSAA given the dates, all we can do is play our game and have each others’ back on and off the field, and we will be successful. We’ll just be putting in another day at the office.”

Part of that game plan includes a vaunted defence who pitched four shutouts during the regular season and allowed just 6.1 points per game. Led by the aforementioned Jacob Baker pulling double duty at linebacker, safety Joe O’Brien and linebacker Ryan Leder, it could be a long day of problem solving for a Paul Dwyer offence who has struggled to put up points in bunches. The Saints did score 44 in a game versus Brooklin, but their next highest offensive outburst was just 28 points, which happened be in the LOSSA finals last week. While that stat could be seen as a negative going up against a team who has scored 89 points in their last two games, it could also be seen as a positive sign that the offence is heading into the festival on an upswing. It’s not that Dwyer is incapable of scoring, because they certainly can, but with some other noted names like Pierrick Buzangu, Eric Gaudet, Matteo Bevilaqua, Jake McCarthy, Kevin Matuga and Liam Ritz filling roles on the Knights’ defence, it will be interesting to see just how much success the Saints will have.

It has been a long journey back to the festival for both of these teams who each battled through a regular season loss to silence all their doubters, and neither program will want to walk away with anything less than another banner to put on display. After clinching the deal in the Golden Horseshoe Bowl last season, St. Thomas More Defensive Coordinator, Joe Burke, has enjoyed watching the same group continue to develop both on and off the field,

“The best part of the 2016 season so far is that our veteran group of fifth year players have grown and developed into great players and men, and seeing their growth and development into a city and GHAC championship has already been amazing. We just need to finish on Monday.”

With the sentiments surely similar on the other sideline, it will be interesting watch this one unfold as St. Thomas More searches for back to back bowl titles once again after completing the trick back in 2006-2007, while Paul Dwyer will be looking to pull of the feat for the first time school history.

Set your alarm clocks early on November 28th with kickoff scheduled for 10:00am at Tim Hortons Field.


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