Titan quarterback Michael Bohan runs the ball in Saturdayâ€™s New Brunswick high school football championship game in Moncton. The Titans lost by a single point.
The MacNaughton Highlanders took advantage of Tantramar Titan miscues to score 14 unanswered fourth quarter points to stage a late rally to win the New Brunswick high school football championship in Moncton on Saturday by the score of 14-13.
Quarterback Michael Bohan led the Titans to a 6-0 bulge by the end of 15 minutes and startled the 4,000-plus fans at Rocky Stone Field with a scintillating 68-yard scamper early in the third to have his Titans up 13-0 before the wheels fell of the Titan van and they again came out as the bridesmaid rather than the bride.
A poor snap on a Thomas Watt convert attempt on the first Titan touchdown caused the kick to go wide and this ultimately proved the margin of loss.
But four lost fumbles kept the local squad in hot water, especially in the late going, while the MacNaughton defense came on strong, keeping Bohan and Conrad Barezyk under control.
Actually, the Titans had a golden opportunity to at least tie the game with a single as they moved the ball from their own 34 to the MacNaughton 41 with just 37 seconds remaining on the clock, but fate played a role. A pass to Barezyk picked up 19. Bohan added two and 10 and then ran for five before missing on a pass attempt to Jeff LeBlanc. On third down he came within the nose of the ball for a first down but that was it and the winners took over on their 41 with 37 seconds and ran out the clock by taking the knee on two occasions.
"We had a game plan to run the ball and did just that," said a disappointed coach Scott O'Neal as he led his team during the medal presentations. "But we ran up against a very good team and our defense simply wore down and was unable to stop their quarterback on keepers late in the going."
But he said he couldn't be prouder of such a fine bunch of young men who gave their all for the team and the school.
Bohan who was earlier named the most outstanding high school player in New Brunswick, wowed the audience with some dazzling punt and kick returns, racking up more than 200 yards in these duties. And he added another 119 from scrimmage, while completing five of seven pass attempts for 56 yards.
He brought the fans to their feet early in the game as he accepted a MacNaughton punt on his own 32-yard line and refused to be denied, shaking off one tackler after another while speeding his way 78 yards for the opening score. But the failure by Watts came back to bite the team as his attempt to get the kick away late sailed wide of the uprights.
Then Bohan showed another side of the game early in the third session as took the snap on his own 42-yard line, barrelled his way to the right, cut left and turned on the jets to race to paydirt, with Watts adding the extra point.
Until the Highlanders began their turnaround in the final sessions, the game had been totally dominated by the Titan quarterback. He ran back kicks and punts with authority, punted the air out of the ball and, in addition, held down the safety spot in a strong secondary.
In the final analysis it was MacNaughton's wily signal caller, Kyle McConnell, who turned things around with two majors of his own. While they were not nearly as spectacular as those of Bohan, they proved the difference when it counted. The first was assisted by a 15-yard roughing call to the Titans that left the winners on the Titan 42. A 30-yard pass completion and two runs by McConnell, the last from the one, got them on the board.
The winning score came as a direct result of the Titan power back turning the ball over on his own 47. Six plays later McConnell did it again, this time also from the one. On both occasions Zach Thorne was good on the convert.
The Titan defense stood tall during the first three quarters, with Jason Johnson proving as quick as a cat. He intercepted one ball in his own end zone, had two more key knockdowns and was all over the field. Linebacker Alan Snowdon proved to be a thorn in the sides of the opposition as did Dan Phinney, Johnny Milner, Wesley Hicks, Troy Hicks, Jessie Morice and Brendan Melanson-Johnston.
MacNaughton showed more diversity in their attack as McConnell was successful in mixing the pass and the run, going to the air 30 times on the afternoon, notching some huge and key gains. But the Titans stuck to their ground game, refusing to go to the air during the entire first half, being comfortable with some huge runs by Bohan and relying on their outstanding defense.
Local supporters provided plenty of vocal support among the huge crowd. They also noted the MacNaughton coaching staff featured two former Mounties - Tim Phinney who was a member of the 1984 Vanier Cup squad and Stew Fraser, who was a key coaching figure in the team's march to the 1991 national finals.
The 2011 season, although ending on a down note, was a big one for the tiny local school. They went 5-1 on the regular season, including a 21-14 victory over MacNaughton and knocked out Harrison Trimble and they stoned Fredericton High 39-1 in the semi finals. Thus, overall, they had a remarkable 7-2 year, the best in ages.