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High school football shines in United Way Day spotlight

See SportsOttawa.com’s video report on the St. Peter vs St. Mark game here.

See SportsOttawa.com’s video report on the St. Matthew vs Franco-Cité game here.

By Dan Plouffe, published Oct. 13 in Ottawa This Week

Trevor Thompson of the St. Mark Lions gets in the face of St. Peter Knights quarterback Jake Molinski during his team’s narrow 20-17 loss in the meeting of undefeated Tier 1 senior teams during the United Way Day high school football jamboree on Thursday, Oct. 6 at St. Joseph Catholic High School. Photo: Dan Plouffe.

St. Joseph Catholic High School was the place to be last week for the local football community as all 18 senior national capital high school teams gathered for the annual United Way Day where matches were played from breakfast to dinner time on the side-by-side fields in Barrhaven.

“It’s a great opportunity for our student-athletes,” says national capital football convenor and South Carleton Storm coach John Sunstrum, noting it’s become a big event for university coaches to come out and scout all the budding local talent in one day. “When you can do something like that and raise some money for a good cause, it’s a bonus.”

Teams made contributions that totaled in the neighbourhood of $1,000 towards the United Way, while some others put together their own initiatives for cancer research fundraising and sported pink tape as part of their battle gear.

St. Mark Lions coach Paul Brown was pleased with the effort his troops put in during a 20-17 loss to three-time defending-champion St. Peter, but what impresses him most about his players is the quality group they are away from the football field.

“There’s a lot of guys involved in a great number of different community things – we’ve got guys volunteering at the church this weekend, rolling sod and helping the priest out,” Brown notes. “They really have a great social conscience and they love to play football, so it’s great coaching that group.”

The Lions, who received touchdowns from Curtis Brown and Christian Fournier, certainly put a big scare into the perennial league powerhouses in the matchup of 2-0 clubs. A punt block late in the contest set them up with a golden opportunity to score a go-ahead touchdown deep inside St. Peter territory, but a third-and-one miss ended their best chance at claiming the upset.

“We’re happy with the way our guys played against an excellent team,” Brown explains, noting the regular season is really just a dress rehearsal for the playoffs. “We’re hoping to improve as the season progresses.”

It’s a similar plan for the FrancoCité Faucons, who dropped to 0-3 in their first Tier 1 campaign with a 33-6 defeat to the St. Matthew Tigers. Despite being winless, the Faucons are showing they can hold their own in the league’s top division after dropping their other two games by a pair of touchdowns to St. Mark and St. Peter.

“We\’re not doing bad. It’s a big step from Tier 2 to Tier 1. These guys are bigger, so we have to adjust. It’s faster and we have a new system in offence, so we have to work very hard,” notes Franco-Cité coach Serge Boisvert.

“We compete well, it’s just a matter of putting everything in the same bowl. We’re hoping it’s going to come soon. There’s only four teams, so everyone’s making the playoffs. It gives us hope.”

The Faucons’ football team is still just three seasons old, and is in the first year where it is out of “pilot project” mode. Franco-Cité’s program was built through the French Catholic school board and previously allowed students from all over the city to attend the Smyth Road school during the fall semester to play for the board’s lone football team.

Now, after making the switch to Tier 1, it was necessary for those students from outside Franco-Cité’s boundaries to transfer there full-time in order for them to be OFSAA-eligible should they win the city title.

“The program’s doing well and the kids love it,” adds Boisvert, who believes in using football as a tool to keep athletes engaged in school when they might otherwise have little interest in academics. “It\’s step by step. We’re growing up and that\’s the key.”

In Tier 2 jamboree action, the host St. Joseph Jaguars dropped a 22-16 match to St. Pius. Pius claimed the first victory in its return to the high school football game this season after a pair of losses, while defending-champion St. Joseph fell to 1-2.

The St. Francis Xavier Coyotes again left observers wondering what they might be able to achieve in the Tier 1 ranks with a 41-0 pummeling of Holy Trinity to improve to 3-0 and bring their combined scoring total in three matches past the 100- point mark.

St. Patrick improved to 2-1 with a 20-13 win over 1-2 Colonel By, Mother Theresa (2-1) shutout 1-2 South Carleton 18-0, Immaculata remained unbeaten at 2-0-1 with a 19-0 win over expansion Garneau (0-3) and Sir Wilfrid Laurier (2-1) continued to show promise with a 10-0 victory over Glebe (1-1-1).

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