SACKVILLE, N.B. – What was billed as a battle for first place in Pool A of the New Brunswick High School Football League turned into a nightmare as the coach of L'Odyssée refused to send his troops out for the second half after being handled with ease by the visiting Tantramar Titans, who had run up a 35-0 lead during the opening 24 minutes of play.
“I really don’t know why the decision was made nor what the repercussions will be,” said a somewhat bewildered Titan head coach Scott O’Neal during an early Saturday morning replay of the game. “No, I’ve never heard of such a happening,” he said, “and this after the game officials asked three times if that was their final decision.”
There no doubt will be some penalty applied against the offending school but since this may have been the first such case of its kind, the type of sanction will have to be well considered.
Some light was shed on the situation over the weekend, however, as the coach of the Olympiens football team told media he had nine players showing concussion symptoms at half time, with three of them being transported to hospital for examination. In addition, he said he had three others on the sidelines recovering from the same situation.
L'Odyssée could have tied the Tantramar Titans with a victory as they went into the battle with a 3-2 record compared to 4-1 for the Titans.
Fans were left in the dark Friday night when game officials simply said the game was over at half time and the teams would not be returning to the field. Many expressed amazement, as they felt “cheated” after having paid the full admission price.
O’Neal said after the game he had not been informed as to the reason for the cancellation, only learning of it the following day from media reports.
He said on Sunday that any problem was the result of L'Odyssée coaching staff having failed to properly prepare the team for competition.
“We played against them as we do against the other teams. We built up a 35-point lead by the half and the other team was obviously unprepared to compete with us.”
– Coach Scott O'Neal
O’Neal went on the say several league coaches had contacted him over the weekend to tell him they had reviewed the game tape and that the Titans were not guilty of any rough play. He added he and his staff had pored over the tape to make sure that none of his players had crossed the line and is satisfied they simply played a typical tough type of football.
League officials are expected to conduct an investigation into the situation, as there has never been a similar happening.
Coach O’Neal is not happy that there might be any criticism of his players, reiterating that he feels the opposing team was not prepared to play the game.
With a 3-2 record going into the game, L'Odyssée was considered a contender and a win for them would have left the two schools in a 4-2 tie in the standings since the Sackville school currently leads its pool with a 5-1 record following Friday nights “fiasco”.
O’Neal said he really expected a battle on Friday night and there was no sense of overconfidence on his team’s part. L'Odyssée had scored a lot of early season success and they had become a serious player in the league.
But the Titans showed little fear and came out on a high, scoring at will much as they had in running up major points against several other teams prior to slipping and dropping a 27-26 decision to Riverview a week earlier.
“No doubt that loss was a true wake-up call for us,” said O’Neal. “Perhaps our guys were looking at number 24 rather than number one.”
The Titans were riding high on a 23 game winning streak before Guy Messervier and his Riverview Royals took the wind out of their sails.
O’Neal knows that no team can go on winning forever and they should have anticipated the string to run out at some point, and it did on Alumni Field under the lights a week earlier.
The 23 game victory streak did tie Moncton High’s previous record but fell well short of that put up by the Fredericton Black Kat, who went well over the 30 mark but the final count has never been posted.
O’Neal has pointed out that The Titans and Riverview are in different pools so each currently lead their section. The pool system was created to accommodate the western division teams who have just three entries – Saint John, Fredericton and Leo Hays – while there are eight in the Moncton region.
And it appears as though the Titans may have found a solution to their kicking problems. Last season Aidan O’Neal was efficient in punting, and Aaron Rose seldom failed in the kicking game but both are now members of the Mounties. On Friday, Lucas Cormier showed he has a competent foot by kicking all five converts. And it was a rookie – actually a recent recruit to the team by the name of Adrian Thompson who demonstrated a strong punting leg.
It didn’t take long for the winners to show they had fully recovered from their loss a week earlier as touchdowns came early and often. Tailback Jared Prescott smashed off tackle for a pair of big scores and versatile Jack Estrabrooks took a turn at slot and ran for another. Meanwhile, quarterback Justin Vogels was demonstrating his strong pitching arm by hooking up with Jeff Lafford and Lucas Cormier for the aerial blitz.
“There is still a lot of football to be played,” noted coach O’Neal, “so now we must remain focused, let others be concerned with the number of games we can rack up in a row, and take each game as it comes.”
This Saturday will see the regular schedule come to a conclusion for the school by the marsh. The struggling Harrison Trimble Trojans will jaunt down from Moncton for a 1 o’clock hookup with the Titans on David Jardine Field in a match scheduled to kick off at 1 o’clock.
With a gaudy 5-l record, the Titans will be heavily favoured as the visitors have yet to taste victory in five attempts. But as coach O’Neal points out “anything can happen and that’s why games are played on the field”.
A question often being asked is this – how would the Titan dynasty over the past three seasons compare to the one wrote during the early ’80s by the team led by the likes of Peter Hess and Ian MacDonald?
Both teams have had the advantage of outstanding coaching but nobody including your columnist would ever be so bold as to choose one over the other.
For certain, each dominated their particular era. But there simply isn’t a true measurement that may be accurately used. No doubt each would excel in certain positions but overall there is no tool by which to compare.
One comment recently heard was that perhaps the competition during the ’80s was stronger than that faced by the current squad. That may be one thesis but, on the other hand, is the present team simply that much better that they only occasionally are challenged.
So, this Saturday could be the beginning of what the Titans hope will be the launch of another drive that will lead to their third consecutive provincial championship. They may need the 13th man to do so – that being a huge supporting cast in the stands making plenty of noise as they go about their business.