RECAP (ONT – GBSSA): Phoenix drop heartbreaker to Wildcats

The Barrie Central Phoenix continued their swan song season on Thursday, October 8th at Eastview Secondary School, also of Barrie, against an 0-2 Wildcats team.

The Phoenix were coming off their first win of the season, a 26-0 victory over the Orillia Knighthawks, and were looking to get above .500 for the first time on the year.

However, it was the Wildcats who who would hit the board first when QB Thomas Chilton found wideout Mack Belcourt for a long touchdown strike after some missed tackles by Central. The Wildcats would miss a PAT and go up 6-0 after one quarter of play.

In the second, the Phoenix would take the lead. Quarterback Matthew Piggott connected with a wide receiver of his own, Curtis King. The throw was an absolute seed that hit King in stride as he entered the end zone. That score put the Phoenix up 7-6 after a PAT by placekicker Jordan Travis.

Barrie Central would add to their lead on a rouge by punter Charlie Jeans, after the Wildcat returner was unable to bring the ball out of the end zone before being tackled. This made the score 8-6 in favour of Central.

The Wildcats would bounce back before the half was out. Piggott threw one of his two interceptions on the afternoon late in the half. The beneficiary was Eastview safety Carter Drury who was able to return the ball all the way to the house. That score put the Wildcats ahead by a score of 12-8 at the half, following a missed two-point convert.

As the second half began, the Wildcats would again find paydirt. It was a result of a questionable special teams call by the Phoenix. On the opening kickoff, returners Travis and Josh Whyte tried to execute a reverse play in an effort to deceive the Wildcats’ cover team. The handoff from Travis to Whyte was fumbled and recovered by Eastview. They would punch it in two plays later on a short-yardage run by fullback Ben Couling, his first of two TD’s on the afternoon. This put the Wildcats up 19-8 after a PAT. The score remained that way after three.

But, back came the Phoenix.

Whyte scored his first TD of the day on a long bomb from Piggott. The Central slotback made the catch and broke a couple tackles to take it the rest of the way for the first of his two major scores. The Phoenix drew to within four and trailed 19-15.

They were far from done. After a quick defensive series and a blocked punt by Matthew Eliot, who had easily the best game of his young career, Central would retake the lead. Piggott and King connected for the second time on the afternoon. The Phoenix captain made an extremely difficult catch earlier in the series and was found again for the go-ahead score. Barrie Central went up by a score of 22-19 after Travis made the PAT.

After another Eastview punt, the Phoenix’s offensive onslaught continued. Whyte, who also served as a fullback in select running plays, used his wheels to his advantage and seemingly put the game away. Piggott threw the ball to Whyte on a sweep, and he did the rest. He forced it outside and ran over numerous would-be tacklers on his quest to gold. One of the best touchdowns of the season put the Phoenix in a comfortable position, up 28-19.

The Wildcats, however, were not about to mail it in.

They would march the ball down the field and cut into the deficit. A solid mix of pass and run plays were the key to their success. The drive was capped off by running back Destin Pierson taking what the defence gave him, breaking through a number of high tackles from the exhausted Phoenix defenders and finding the end zone. The Wildcats would kick the PAT and trail by a score of 28-26.

Being late in the game, Eastview’s only hope of completing their comeback rested on the outcome of an onside kick. The kick was perfectly placed, and Central was unable to recover it and seal the win. Instead, the Wildcats got on the ball and their offence had one final shot with approximately a minute remaining on the clock.

The Wildcats were able to take advantage of a depleated Central defence. The Phoenix had multiple players seeing action on both sides of the ball, which proved, in the end, to be too much to handle against a team with almost twice as many players. Eastview took the Phoenix’s ‘D’ to school in the late going,but also had some help from the officials following a suspect pass interference call on Whyte that was originally an interception, which would have put the game away for Central. The Wildcats kept marching and got down to the three yard line with 12.8 seconds remaining on the clock and were nearly stopped. Couling was contacted in the backfield, but drove his legs and powered his way ahead into the end zone to put the Wildcats ahead for good, 33-28.

The Phoenix had one more shot, but were unable to pull of the miracle, and fell in what was arguably their best game of the season. With no disrespect intended to their previous opponent, the Knighthawks, Eastview was a much larger team in terms of numbers and size, and the Phoenix nearly pulled off what could be considered a mild upset.

This was certianly a game full of back-and-forths.

“I speak for the team when I say it was an outstandingly intense game to watch and play,” Whyte recalled. There were bad plays, good plays, and amazing spirit. All in all it was a great game.”

Although it wasn’t meant to be in the end, the fortitude the Phoenix showed was no surprise.

“I’d like to say that our spirit and courage is some of the best I’ve experienced, Whyte said. “Whether we’re down by 10, 20, or 100 we get our minds set on the game and we push through it,” he went on. “We’ve pushed trough injuries, losses and weather to come out to practice everyday and give it 110% I’m glad to call them my friends and my brothers.”

Eliot also took positives from the defeat.

“It hurt me seeing us loose that game, but I am so proud of our team,” he stated. For a small AA team to put up such a good fight against a huge school like Eastview, it was amazing. I know we are going to succeed this season.”

This was also a very important game personally for the newly-named Phoenix captain, and he certainly did not disappoint.

“Ever since I heard that we were playing Eastview, I was very motivated because all my friends went to Eastview and I was the only one who went to central,” he mentioned.”So I got zoned in. I trained as hard as I could and I pushed harder then I ever had.”

He also took time to comment on the best game of his life.

“When I got on the field I changed who I was,” said Eliot. “I am nice off the field but on it I have no friends; only my teammates,” he went on. “I was so zoned in I can only remember parts of the game. And the best part was I got to hit some of my friends and that was pretty satisfying.”

Cornerback and one of the five Phoenix players to play rep summer ball for the Huronia Stallions of the Ontario Football Conference (OFC), Jordan Travis, tried to explain the fumbled reverse that led to the third Wildcat touchdown.

“We were trying to fool the coverage team and maybe get a big return for our team to get us in good scoring position,” he said. “But it was just poor timing on the handoff and Josh couldn’t take it.”

Despite the questionableness of the play, Travis is a leader on the team, and uses his rep experience to help him on the high school field.

“It really helps me because I have experience playing better football and being around some amazing leaders,” Travis said. “I feel those leaders and their leadership skills rubbed off on me and I’m taking advantage of that and I’m now trying to lead our team to a championship in our final year of Central Football.”

An early season success for the Phoenix has been that of their running attack.

“I believe the running game has been extraordinary because we have nearly all our blocks perfected, the line opens the holes, the ball carriers can scout the field and where they will go,” Whyte commented. “Whenever our passing game gets shut down, we have a back up, which is very important.”

The Phoenix next see the field Thursday, October 15, when they play their longtime crosstown rivals from Barrie North in their first game on home field since October 29 of 2014 in a tough one point playoff loss to the Bradford Buccaneers.

Travis sets up the grudge match.

“From what I have heard North is a very solid opponent and will be a tough competitior,” he stated. “But just looking at the score of their game against Eastview and also ours it will be an extremely close game.,” he continued. “In the end we as a team are just hoping to come out on top and we will be giving it all out there to make that hope become reality.”

The game is set to kickoff at 2:30 p.m. from famous Red Storey Field at Central.

Eastview is also set for a Thursday matchup in Week 4 against the similar 1-2 Bear Creek Kodiaks beginning at 3:30 p.m. at Bear Creek in Barrie.

Advocating for football prospects one story at a time.

Leave a Reply