OFSAA Football Festival Preview (National Capital Bowl): Frontenac Falcons take on the Crestwood Mustangs to end day one with a bang

Feature photo courtesy of Clifford Skarstedt/Peterborough Examiner

Eastern Ontario will take centre stage for the twilight hours on day one of the festival as the Frontenac Falcons battle it out with the Crestwood Mustangs in the National Capital Bowl.

This matchup will be one of the most intriguing to follow from a storyline perspective, with both programs earning their way to the festival using unfamiliar routes.

For Frontenac, it was status quo for the majority of the season as they rattled off win after win en route to a league finals showdown versus La Salle. The Falcons were certainly favourites going into that game, but La Salle put up a great fight eventually walking away with a 30-28 victory. In an unusual circumstance, however, the loss didn’t spell the end of Frontenac’s season just yet, as they now get one more chance to prove their worth by taking home an OFSAA Bowl trophy instead,

“We took a bit of time off after our loss at KASSAA.” Frontenac Head Coach, Mike Doyle explains. “We had to get over that a little. We are a team with a proud history, and we know we belong in the OFSAA Bowl. I think the loss gave us a great opportunity to identify areas in which we needed to improve.”

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Photo courtesy of Clifford Skarstedt/Peterborough Examiner

On the other end of the spectrum, Crestwood is a team on a mission to prove all doubters wrong after being denied a shot to compete at the festival last season. Once again, under an unusual circumstance, the program’s AA status made them ineligible to receive a trip over a AAA team, leaving them to compete in the National Capital AA playdowns. While Crestwood Head Coach, Shane Oldfield, fully embraces the AA playdowns, he admits it’s a different feeling when your boys get a chance to play with the best Ontario has to offer.

“It’s nice to be back to the OFSAA Bowl Festival. This year that rule changed, and we were able to move on after winning the Central Ontario region. While playing in the AA playdowns is nice, going to OFSAA is much more appreciated by the players. They feel that this is a bigger stage and one that puts them in a bigger light.”

While that is the story off the field, of course, that is not how things are decided in sports, and this matchup is shaping up to be a tight contest across the board.

If we paint the picture with a broad brush, there isn’t much separating these two teams who have both experienced some massive wins this season, but also both have a loss to their name. Oddly enough, each team’s loss was by a single digit, leaving both sides with the memory of that terrible taste in your mouth that nobody ever wants to experience again. Thankfully that isn’t a familiar feeling, however, with Frontenac managing to score an average of 31.5 points per game, with only one contest all season where they scored less than 25, while Crestwood answers back with an average of 34.5 points per game, and five games this season where they broke the 40 point barrier.

Taking a deeper dive into the fray, quarterback play will be at the forefront with Crestwood trotting out Ryan Astrom under centre, who will be relying heavily on the trio of Braeden O’Brien, Brad Deal and Chase Batley to make some big plays down field to keep them in contention. If that plan of attack doesn’t work, the Mustangs also boast a talented stable of running backs that includes Dawson Puk, Emerson Decarlo and Sidney Parkes, who are able to find all sorts of holes behind an offensive line led by Jeff Milburn. This deadly combo in the backfield when coupled with Astrom’s running ability can create nightmares for opposing defences, which is exactly the type of offensive philosophy Oldfield is aiming for,

“Our team runs many different formations on offence. We run everything from a pure wing offence, to a spread, including a six-pack offence at times.”

john-harman-metroland

Photo courtesy of John Harman/Metroland

Frontenac will counter back with Brendan Steele running the show on offence, who will be surrounded by talent in every direction as he looks to slice through the Mustangs’ defence. Steele should be well protected by a stout offensive line led by Seth Vezeau, Matt Walker, and Petro Mastrodimitropoulos, which will hopefully give him time to get playmakers Spencer Riley and Jake Magee in on the action.

There is a lot of respect between these two clubs, and Oldfield knows that he will need to have his team prepared to stop Frontenac on all fronts.

“Frontenac appears very strong in many facets of the game. They can run the ball with a strong single back. They pass the ball very well with a number of quality receivers. They also have strong line play, and they appear excellent at stopping the run, particularly on the inside.”

The feelings are mutual on the other sideline as well, with Doyle offering similar praise for their regional foes.

“Their quarterback is very athletic and a threat to run all the time. Their defense often comes up with big plays at the most important time. Crestwood has good players, and is also a team with a great record historically. We know they will be well prepared.”

As both coaches mentioned above, defence will play an integral role in this one with each team offering a lot of talent for scouts to feast their eyes on. The meat of the Falcons’ defence are their bookends on the d-line Ty Sands and Owen Bloom, who are able to create space for linebackers Brandon Thompson and Devin Parris to roam around from sideline to sideline. For Crestwood, being a AA schools means their population base to grab players from is smaller, which has led to many two-way stars displaying their skills on both sides of the field. Some of these players include the previously mentioned Puk and Decarlo playing linebacker, Parkes and Batley in the defensive backfield, while Deal fills in at defensive end. Despite the extra workload, this group of ironmen have had no issues keeping up with the pace, with Crestwood averaging just 4.6 points against per game, not to mention the four game shutout streak they put together in the middle of the season. With that said, Frontenac’s numbers aren’t lagging to far behind averaging just 12.3 points against per game.

While of course every team wants to walk away victorious when the final whistle blows, it’s hard not to overlook the fact that this is the end of a journey for all involved. Sports are unique because you generally only get one shot at glory with a certain group of guys in the locker room, but also only one shot at making some lifelong memories. With the season rapidly coming to a close, Oldfield took the opportunity to reflect on the season as a whole from start to finish,

“We have seen the biggest areas of improvement in our passing game and our ability to stop the pass. At the beginning of the year we had a number of rookies in key positions. It has taken time but these rookies have really improved and this has led to a stronger passing attack and pass defence.” says Oldfield. “Our favourite moment this year coaching the players was the win in our city championship over our rivals Adam Scott. They are an excellent team and it is always a close contest when we play one another. To beat them is always a highlight of our season.”

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Photo courtesy of Julia McKay/The Whig

Doyle doesn’t have a particular moment or game he can point to during Frontenac’s season, but rather he chooses to reminisce about spending time with his team everyday at practice, sharing smiles and laughter that more than likely had nothing to do with the game itself.

With that said, make no mistake each program still has an OFSAA title on their to-do list before the season officially ends, and all Doyle asks of his players heading into their final battle together is to have no regrets when it’s all said and done,

“We have improved the most in our capacity to work as a team. I am proud of how the players have adapted to new roles, and fit into a team concept. We want our players to make the most of this opportunity, and for our graduates we want them to leave having played their very best game.”

The National Capital Bowl will take place on Monday, November 28th at Tim Hortons Field, kickoff is slated for 4:00pm.

 

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