Revenge is sweet for Fightin’ Irish

Who says kickers in football aren’t tough?

Eric Kempi ignored the pain from his badly sprained ankle to help Burlington’s Notre Dame Fightin’ Irish defeat Lakeshore Catholic Gators of Port Colborne 33-10 in the Golden Horseshoe Bowl final at Rogers Centre yesterday.

That high school contest was a rematch of the 2008 Golden Horseshoe Bowl, won 8-7 by Lakeshore Catholic.

Kempi, who booted two field goals and three converts, had been sidelined since Nov. 12 in Stoney Creek when, on a blocked field goal, a Cardinal Newman Cardinal player rolled over on his left leg. Kempi had to be assisted from the field that night. He was on crutches before testing the leg with a few kicks at practice on Tuesday.

Coach Chad Wozney appreciated the gutsy effort of Kempi, even though the entire Irish defensive and offensive units were both outstanding on their own.

“I’m glad we had him,” Wozney said. “Eric made a big difference early. He had just enough rest. He’s a good weapon to have for a run-oriented team.”

Notre Dame led 7-0, 23-3 and 26-10 at the quarter breaks and Kempi’s field goals were launched from the 17- and 32-yard lines.

“I didn’t play as well as I wanted,” said Kempi, a longtime soccer player making his football debut with the Irish. “It’s the plant ankle, so my balance was off. I missed two field goals and a convert. But it’s the win that counts. The rest of the boys came through. I’ll remember this day the rest of my life.”

The Halton reps completed an undefeated season in 2009. And they’re 19-1 over the past two years.

“This is fantastic,” said Wozney after the trophy presentation. “We’re flying high. Without the physical talents of the players, this wouldn’t be possible.”

When asked what made the difference against the Gators in the title rematch, Wozney said: “I think it was those little individual battles that we lost last year but won this year.”

The Irish, ranked No. 1 in Ontario, opened the scoring on a 13-yard touchdown pass from Billy McPhee to wide receiver Max Mezzabotta. Keith Lagace accounted for Notre Dame’s second major score when he took a screen pass and sped, untouched, 56 yards into the end zone.

Lakeshore Catholic answered with a 24-yard field goal by John Gibson before McPhee and Mezzabotta hooked up again for a 27-yard scoring strike under the goalposts with 65 seconds left in the opening half.

Gators (8-1 this season) narrowed the gap to 23-10 on a five-yard flip pass from Gary Snyder to Keaton Spratt in the third quarter.

Chris Pezzetta then recovered a fumble for Notre Dame and, fittingly, capped the ensuing drive with a one-yard touchdown run.

Notre Dame piled up 439 yards in net offence. Along the ground, Pezzetta rushed for 93 and Lagace added 70. Through the air, McPhee was 14 of 19 for 257 yards.

“Notre Dame had a purpose in mind,” said coach Rocky DiPietro, the former Tiger-Cat who was making his fourth Bowl appearance with the Gators. “They had a sour taste in their mouth from last year and they came out gunning for us.

“We didn’t execute. We just weren’t ready for the challenge. Don’t take anything away from Notre Dame, though, they’re a great team. They have good athletes, a good system.”

Go to to view a slideshow of the game.

Source: Hamilton Spectator

Larry Moko
The Hamilton Spectator
TORONTO (Nov 26, 2009)

Advocating for football prospects one story at a time.

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