The well-conditioned Tantramar Titans faced limited opposition here on Saturday afternoon as they continued their “drive for five” with a lopsided 39-0 downing of the visiting Leo Hayes Lions of Fredericton in New Brunswick High School Football League action.
“While it may have turned out that way,” said coach Scott O’Neal, “we were expecting a battle and took special preparations all week so as not to miss a beat.”
With that being said, the Lions showed little commitment for battle – actually they completed just three first downs all day and had fewer than 54 yards of offense.
However, this allowed O’Neal to continue to experiment. He substituted freely, primarily inserting first-year Grade 9 students into the lineup. And, at the other end, fans saw the tailback Owen O’Neal – the man who regularly puts up 150 yards and multiple touchdowns – get just two touches for a total of 45 yards.
Fans got to see names like Jaycob Johanneson, Landon Schultz and a host of others for the first time and each carried out his duties perfectly.
While veteran defensive players like Colby Tower and Riley Estabrooks got most of the reps at tailback, the position kept rotating with youngsters like Elliot Hicks, Schultz, Ethan Cormier and others.
Rookie quarterback Jesse Estabrooks stepped up to complete 17 of 24 pass attempts for 160 yards – and this included five touchdowns – three to Riley Estabrooks and one each to Cormier and Conrad Allen. The other was notched by Tower on a short run. The Titans also scored a two-point conversion, and Joe Carpenter booted two through the uprights.
One question exists following the lopsided win. How will that affect the team this Friday when they travel to Moncton to take on the Purple Knights at Rocky Stone Field at 7 o’clock?
“Moncton is really our greatest obstacle,” O’Neal said on Sunday, “and that game will be just like a championship match.”
Obviously the players are hoping for a huge number of Tantramar supporters to be there to cheer them to victory, especially since it is homecoming game for the Knights.
The veteran coach said he was impressed by his team’s newly-developed passing game as they moved away from the straight-ahead, smashmouth football that is usually a trademark of the Titans.
However, this could be a strategic move, allowing the Titans to diversify their offensive tactics. With an awesome ground display and a fair aerial game, they could add to their arsenal.
Although they handled the Purple Knights in their first encounter here on David Jardine Field, the defending provincial champions are aiming to avoid any mistakes along the way. They have won four consecutive starts by concentrating on defense first and have three matches remaining, two on the road and the final at home against the Saint John Greyhounds on Oct. 26.
With a quartet of consecutive provincial championships already in their grip, this season is being termed the "drive for five" in hopes of matching the claims of the Fredericton Black Kats, who with a school enrolment of 3,500, rang up an enviable record prior to the turn of the century.
Coach O’Neal dismisses the idea that his Titans are heavy favorites to “run the table” again, instead pointing out how several of the bigger schools would love to dethrone his squad and go all-out each time to accomplish. In other words, he says the Titans go into battle with a bullseye on their backs.
Perhaps all that will be determined under the lights on Friday night.
Thus it is incumbent for football fans from throughout the region to be there to help the Titans extend their season winning streak to five, their three-year streak to 18 and their overall five season mark to an amazing 38-1.