Titans Dylan Cormier (#36) and Cody Weeks (#7) tackle a Riverview player during Saturday afternoon’s game in Sackville. The Titans were downed 58-21 by the undefeated Royals. EMILY TOWER PHOTOS
They were heavy underdogs because they were under-sized, under-manned and under-experienced, but the Tantramar Titans gave it their all to the final whistle on Saturday before conceding defeat, this time by a lopsided score of 58-21 to the undefeated Riverview Royals in New Brunswick High School Football League play at David Jardine Field.
Head coach Scott O'Neal has been faced with patching together a lineup to represent a school with roughly 250 male students and this presents a serious problem, not only for the current campaign but down the road. The population of the school has dipped dramatically from the 700 range to well under 500 since its opening in 1972 and this was accentuated last June when only 89 graduates received their certificates. This was by far the smallest graduating class in the history of the school and was representative of the shrinking trend in Tantramar.
As noted earlier, there aren't sufficient numbers to have both a bantam and high school team, thus leaving the only feeder system being the peewees, and O'Neal and his staff have loaded up on Grade 9 and 10 students, counting on their development over the next two to three years to turn Tantramar into a serious contender.
It is hoped that the younger players, learning the game although seldom getting into the action, will not become frustrated and quit the game. This is merely the progression seen in such sports as football, but occasionally parents can have a negative impact on their children, especially if they construe a lack of playing time as discrimination.
The Titans came into being 40 years ago as a fledgling group with little or no experience. However, they had fair numbers in camp, a strong contingent of well-muscled sons of fishermen and farmers and some talented Sackville young men. With football minds like those of Bruce McMillan and Chris Porter, the Titans became a legend – by far the smallest school in the league but the toughest and best as they strung together a number of championships.
Today's Titans continue to show the same spirit. Several former opposing players – many later attending Mount Allison – have said you might win a game occasionally against the Titans but it took at least a week to recuperate from the physical beating they deliver. They learned to play what is commonly called "smash mouth" football.
Guy Messervier, head coach of Riverview and a fine performer with he Mounties in the ’90s, said after Saturday's victory that he was just happy to have another win, even though his boys sustained a lot of bangs and bruises againat one of the hardest hitting teams in the province.
On Saturday, the Titans had a touchdown nullified for holding and then the much larger and speedier Royals attackers took command, building a 35-0 lead by half time. O'Neal and his staff attempted to quell the assault by using the more senior players on both offense and defense, but they simply did have the numbers of talented people to match up. Offensively, they could move the ball, especially with quarterback Anton Sianchuk back in uniform after missing nearly a year with a concussion. He scored one of the Titans trio of touchdowns, while Cody Weeks, a workhorse at running back, spun his way into the Royals' end zone on two occasions. Nevin Becker also enjoyed some success. While the team, overall, showed flashes of what the future may hold, it was proved again it is not ready to seriously challenge the bigger schools in the league.
The Titans have one tie but have lost five times, always showing plenty of spirit and this Saturday will wrap up the campaign with a road trip to Saint John where they play Simonds Seabees in an interlocking match.
We at The Write Call wish the young men and their committed leaders success in their finale and look forward to the day when the Titans will again take their place among the elite teams in New Brunswick. After all, it was only two seasons ago they were included in the ranks of the top high school teams in Canada by a national ranking organization. It could happen again.