OFSAA Football Festival Preview (Independent Bowl): #CFC50 No. 11 South Lions take on the small-town kids from #CFC50 No. 48 McKinnon Park

Feature photo courtesy of Darryl G. Smart

Little town meets big city in the Independent Bowl as the #CFC50 No. 13 South Lions collide with the newly minted #CFC50 No. 48 McKinnon Park Blue Devils.

It may be odd to refer to London as a big city, but when you factor in that McKinnon Park is located in Caledonia which has a population of roughly 10,000 people, it’s quite clear that this game will see a clash between two different worlds.

While London may need to fight for their place among big cities in Canada, there’s nobody with a functioning brain that would argue they aren’t one of the top breeding grounds for football in the country. This speaks to the road that South had to tow this year as they made their way to Hamilton, which for the most part they did in spectacular fashion.

Not many teams can say they walked through their league with no resistance, but that is exactly what the Lions did mercying seven out of their eight opponents, and in the lone game where they didn’t shut off the scoreboard after 35-0 per league rules, they ended up winning 43-12. Knowing the region they were from, South was aware that they would eventually face resistance at some point in time, which came in the form of #CFC50 Catholic Central in the city finals,

“Obviously winning our WOSSAA qualifier which is a de-facto London city championship was a special thing for our team.” says Lions’ Head Coach Mike Stenning “South Collegiate hasn’t had a senior City Championship since 2001, so that win would be our favorite moment so far. The win was a character builder for our team considering we were down 17-7 with just over four minutes left in the game. Every player on our team contributed to that victory”

While South is making their first appearance at the festival since 2001, it will be a special trip for the kids from Caledonia who are the first team in McKinnon Park history to make it to a bowl game. The Blue Devils started the year in a wild shootout versus Delhi which they lost 56-48, but thankfully as the season wore on, their offensive production stayed the same while their defence clamped down allowing no more than 15 points in their next five games. Led by Laurier commit Connor Carusello under centre, McKinnon Park would enact their revenge on Delhi in the league finals in a 40-35 thriller en route to another victory over Sir Allan MacNab to punch their tickets to Hamilton. In the their victory over Delhi, Jacob Smith and Zach Mumby each found the end zone to help the Blue Devils to victory, and will once again be relied on by Carusello to extend drives versus a South defence who doesn’t take very kindly to teams scoring points on them.

A photo posted by South Football (@southfball) on

Although it would be easy for South to overlook a team from Caledonia, Stenning says he isn’t taking McKinnon Park lightly and is preparing his team for what he expects will be a good test,

“Because of the quick turnaround between games, we have only had the chance to watch a bit of tape so far, but we know their quarterback is a Laurier University commit who’s a big strong player with a big arm and running ability.” Stenning explains, “We know they had a hard fought playoff run to get to the Independent Bowl, so we expect them to be battle tested and are looking forward to a tough game”

On the frontlines for the Lions will be offensive linemen #CFC100 Spencer Nichols, Joel Stenning, Matt Adams, Zach Calia and Sekilas Doxtator, who have created more than enough time all year for a pair of Western University commits Nick Morello and Noah Johns to operate. The Blue Devils will need to make sure they are gap responsible when pass rushing as well with Ethan Martin directing traffic under centre, who will take off in the blink of an eye if the opportunity presents itself.

On the opposite side of the trenches, South’s menacing defence is led by the linebacking corp of Tyler Thompson, Dawson Elliot and Richie Selmes, who are able to find room behind an active defensive line that rotates seven players through. Covering the back end is Cole Wilkinson, Robert Panabaker and David Nethersole in the secondary, who have provided blanket coverage on anybody who can find their way through the front seven. As mentioned, the quick turn around and lack of available game tape really leads teams to own their identity at the festival, which is exactly what Stenning plans on doing,

“Since our first exhibition game in Chardon, Ohio until our final WOSSA championship game, we have preached “do your job”. Over the 3 months of our season our team has really bought into this concept and it’s been the rallying cry for our guys. Having them understand that if all 12 guys do their job, don’t try and do anyone else’s job, making sure your assignment is completed the way we coached it, we can win every snap. This has allowed us to get where we are today.”

To go along with that rallying cry, South has also used some visualization throughout the season to keep their players motivated,

“We have a countdown in our dressing room of the games left in the season.” Stenning explains. “This serves as a reminder for our seniors that their high school careers are coming to an end and every day and every practice is important.”

With both teams heading into this game with dreams of OFSAA glory, there is no better place to end a high school career than Tim Hortons Field. The Independence Bowl will kickoff at 4:00pm on November 29th.


About Canadafootballchat.com

Canadafootballchat.com (CFC) is the number one national amateur football website (source: ComScore.com) and most respected source for high school and recruiting news in Canada.  CFCs mission is to promote players, coaches, administrators, teams, & leagues from coast to coast. Powered by 40+ local reporters, CFCs content driven network covers Canadian NCAA & CIS recruiting, and high school players & teams like no one else.

About CFC Insider

The CFC Insider’ section is for the fan, player, coach, parent, looking for MORE. The mission of this exclusive membership section is to give more recruiting news, exclusive rankings and multi-series stories as well as coach-player instructional videos. To become a CFC INSIDER member, CLICK HERE!

Advocating for football prospects one story at a time.

Leave a Reply