MONCTON, N.B. – For the third consecutive game the Tantramar Titans unleashed an offensive onslaught, showing no mercy on Friday night at Rocky Stone Field as they hammered Moncton High Purple Knights 43-0 in New Brunswick High School Football League play.
While coach Scott O’Neal says he was proud of the commitment of his players he is taking nothing for granted as they still must face teams like Fredericton, Leo Hayes and L'Odyssée before the regulation season comes to a conclusion.
But with a 35-7 win over Saint John, a 58-1 victory against Riverview and the latest lopsided triumph the Titans have outscored the opposition 136-8 and have an early claim on their fourth provincial championship.
Thus they are chasing a record set during the 1980s by the Fredericton Black Kats who waltzed to six championships while running up nearly 60 consecutive victories over outclassed opponents.
There has been some discontent recently from other schools that the Titans are simply too good for the remainder of the circuit but such criticism was muted as the Black Kats pummeled their opponents.
“I was really a little surprised about our outcome on Friday,” said coach O’Neal on Saturday morning. “But it was a good feeling to see the guys play so well and keep their cool under the conditions.”
And the relatively easy win allowed him to insert some younger players, those who have been practicing regularly but holding down the bench for a year or two. A highlight came when Elliot Hicks went in at tail back and took the ball over from the one, completing a four-play drive. The coach said he would have liked to insert more younger boys but the second half was straight time and the opportunities were limited.
With a 28-0 lead at the half he limited star running back Oliver Longpre’s playing time even though he struck for a pair of touchdowns, including a 50-yarder for a punt return major.
The victory was the 32nd in 33 tries for the champs, stretching back to the 2015 season. Their lone setback came at the hands of Riverview last season by a single point when quarterback Justin Vogels came up a foot short of the goal line on a third-down attempt.
Vogels, rated the top high school signal caller in the province after having won the starting role for Team New Brunswick, threw a pair of touchdown passes – one to sure handed Jacob Estabrooks and a 25-yarder to Owen O’Neal. Lucas Cormier shifted over from safety to score the other major on a two-yard run.
Coach O’Neal was unable to hide his feelings after the game as he looked across the field and recalled it was Moncton coach John Allanach who had led the attack against him and the Titans that led to the ill-fated grievance lodged with the NBIAA. As is known, the investigative commission found not only that there was no justification for the complaint as they believed the Titans were playing well within the rules of the game but that they were also playing at a level a notch about their opponents.
But the front seven came up big early in the game. Leading 7-0 the Titans took a series of unnecessary penalty calls and found Moncton on their own three-yard line. It was here the defense took over, stopping the Knights dead in their tracks. After taking possession they marched the length of the field to double their count.
Last season’s powerful line had to be rebuilt this year and some fresh new faces have stepped in to aid players like Simon Dean and Tristan McCluskey so they would seem not to have lost a step.
So this Saturday at 1 o’clock they will host the Fredericton Black Kats and another victory, especially if is decisive like the others, should make the Titans prohibitive favourites to add number four to their resume.
But O’Neal, ever the cautious one, is taking no chances as he and his strong staff continue to teach, train and develop 45 young men to be prepared for any event.
Another strong supporting attendance is anticipated – much as in Moncton when local fans out-yelled the home side.