SACKVILLE, N.B. – Life seems to evolve in circles – at least in such parts of life as sports. It was only a few short years ago when the local football Titans were being unmercifully hammered by the bigger schools like Moncton, Harrison Trimble, Mathieu Martin and Fredericton.
Now the shoe is on the other foot and it isn’t being accepted as gracefully as the local team did for many years. Your columnist watched as a youthful Titan team absorbed a 64-0 hammering in its very first game ever against Harrison Trimble. But they came back with determination although it took another eight years to gain some revenge.
How events have changed! In just three weeks, opposing teams have twice forfeited their games after just 24 minutes of play. In both instances, the reason given was a lack of personnel to complete the game.
In the early days, Don MacIntyre took a team from Sackville with only 17 players who ever had any experience and that was mostly from summer workouts and they stayed until the end.
Well this year the Titans are within striking distance of their third consecutive New Brunswick High School Football League championship. They toyed with the Mathieu Martin Matadors on Saturday on David Jardine Field to run up 41 unanswered points in the first half. Actually, the score could have been much worse if coach Scott O’Neal had decided to go “for the throat”.
The Matadors showed absolutely no offense. Over the first half, they failed to ring up a single first down from scrimmage and ended with minus eight yards of offense. Defensively, they showed some spirit and held the Titans at some points although the local team was never forced to punt the ball.
The score was 14-0 after the first quarter as various players were used at different positions, with Lucas Cormier earning player of the game honours from the press box as he hit a ton on defense, ran the ball with reckless abandon, returned punts and kicked converts. But many others handled their positions properly and, overall, it was a mismatch from the opening whistle.
So what does the governing body do about such things – throwing in the towel at half time? The coach of the Matadors refused to comment as to why he made the decision. However, it appears as though he brought only 25 players for the game and with an injury or two was rather limited in options. But that raises the question of whether a team like this should be in a league with teams like Moncton, Riverview, Fredericton and Tantramar.
It’s often been said, “What goes around comes around.”
That appears to be the case here. It wasn’t that many years ago that some voices were raised suggesting the Titans should look at dropping down to play the 10-man game. But Scott O’Neal said “absolutely not” and took proper steps to ensure the school would have adequate representation. With fewer than 400 students in the school, he nevertheless joined forces with the minor program and with the Mounties to create a smooth development program. Thus, kids from the earliest age began to develop in a single system with the goal of ultimately becoming a Mountie. And it appears to have been successful with four graduates moving across campus this year and another to Acadia.
Anyhow, on Saturday a trio of touchdowns from Jared Prescott and singles by Jeff Lafford, Jack Estabrooks and Oliver Longpre combined with five converts from Lucas Cormier accounted for all the scoring.
The results of recent games certainly wouldn’t seem to prepare the Titans for what no doubt will be a battle this Saturday when they square off against Riverview Royals in the semi finals. The Royals have been in some tough battles recently, having edged out Fredericton for the right to advance and they will be geared and ready.
Following a 23-game winning streak, the Titans came up short against the Royals earlier this season, losing by a single point, and not a Titan coach or player will forget that incident nor will they be plagued with overconfidence this time.
As of the moment, the two powerhouses, each coached by former Mounties, will lock horns at 1 p.m. on Saturday on Jardine Field. The ultimate difference could be the support of hundreds of football fans from across the region – it could be that close. But coach O’Neal well remembers the less prosperous days and is taking nothing for granted. You can be sure his team will be pumped and giving no quarter. So, this could be the game of the decade – and it will unwind right on the edges of the marsh.