SACKVILLE, N.B. – The road to the third consecutive New Brunswick High School Football championship came one step closer here Saturday afternoon when the steamrolling Tantramar Titans put a royal whooping on the visiting Riverview Royals in the semi-final match at David Jardine Field in front of a record crowd estimated at 600.
The one-sided victory may have come as somewhat of a surprise since the Royals had broken the Titans’ 23 game winning streak a few weeks ago.
But there was no question who was in command on Saturday as the Titan defense sealed the door and the offense utilized a variety of methods to rack up 35 unanswered points to earn the win and the right to host the championship game here at Jardine Field this Saturday at 1 o’clock.
Immediately after Riverview quarterback Logan Crossman notched two completions to receiver Jackson Green, Titan defensive coordinator Peter Estabrooks took his team out of a zone defense to a man-to-man and that was all she wrote. Time after time, Crossman went to the air with only frustration. Estabrooks said after the game he simply put two of his fastest defenders on the top two Royal receivers and they did an outstanding job.
“We really didn’t make too many changes,” said Estabooks, “because our guys did a superb job.”
Knowing they had little or no chance to run the ball against the tough Titan front seven, the Royals stayed almost exclusively to the air, resulting in their managing just one first down and 19 yards of offense during the first half.
Meanwhile, the Titans were driving the Riverview defense mad with a fine mixture of power runs and some direct hits through the air. Tailback Jared Prescott was a one-man battering ram over the first 24 minutes, racking off 116 hard-earned yards. He was given a break during the second half as Jack Estabrooks came in to chalk 118 yards along the ground.
The winners, going about business in a workmanlike way, worked their way to a 20-point bulge before heading to the dressing room for a rest. They added another 15 in the second half by taking advantage of some unfinished Riverview business.
Following the game, Riverview coach Guy Messervier said he simply didn’t have the personnel to deal with the tight Titan defense but he said that, other than the score, he felt it was a well-played game.
Messervier, who played beside Titan mentor Scott O’Neal on the 1991 Mountie Vanier Cup team, complimented his former teammate for playing football as it should be played. And when asked how he would predict the outcome of this week’s championship game between Moncton Purple Knights and the Titans he said, “If I were a betting man I would wager on the Titans.”
He also agreed that some changes need to be done to find a league balance, perhaps creating two four-team leagues so that every game would be a battle rather than the situation this year where the top three teams have had games easily won by half time.
It took the Titans nearly 10 minutes to find the end zone on Saturday as Riverview displayed a strong defense led by Josh Armstrong, Adam Steeves and Michael Allain. The play that started the winners on their way was a neat reverse that saw Grade 10 speedster Oliver Longpre dance home with a 20-yarder for six points and Lucas Cormier added the extra.
Jared Prescott finished off a seven-play drive with a blast from the one midway into the second quarter and he repeated four minutes later with another one-yarder that completed a 54-yard drive.
Jack Estabrooks was moved from defense to tailback in the second half and he wasted little time in running the final 27 yards to paydirt and Prescott caught the ball for a two-point conversion.
Meanwhile, Riverview came within a whisker of getting on the scoreboard when their return man took a Titan kickoff 65 yards before being hauled down by Mason Prescott on the Titan six. But three plays later, the winners had the ball on their 20 and the goose egg still in place.
This game was the first real competition faced by the Titans since the two teams met five weeks ago and there was concern that this lack of challenge would be their undoing. However, coach O’Neal had his players demonstrating the traditional hard-nosed style of play long symbolic of the boys from the marsh.
On Friday night, the Purple Knights thrashed MacNaughton 50-0 to earn their berth in the final. And again it will be former Mounties directing their troops with John Allanach, a former tough Mountie middle linebacker, calling the plays for the Knights.
Moncton gave the Titans a battle in their first outing – ending 32-15 for the locals – so it should bring the top two teams in New Brunswick together on Saturday. And if the turnout last week was a record, this week’s crowd is expected to be even larger.
Can the Titans make it a threepeat? They believe so, their fans believe so and Guy Messervier believes so – now the proof will be in the pudding.