By Anil Jhalli
It was an up-and-down season for the Ashbury Colts boys’ rugby team, but it’s the finish to the campaign that will be remembered.
The Colts boys earned a program-best silver medal in front of a home crowd at the June 1-3 OFSAA ‘A/AA’ boys’ rugby championships, held at Twin Elm Rugby Park in Richmond.
It marked the 5th time in the last 9 years that Ashbury made it to the provincial semi-finals.
“But it was the first trip to the OFSAA finals, which shows what a special accomplishment this was,” highlights Colts coach Ian Middleton. “I think I can safely speak for my co-coaches (Sonny Raina and Dave Rapai) as well when I say this definitely was one of the best moments in Ashbury boys’ rugby.”
The Colts’ path to the OFSAA championship game was not smooth. There was a rare home field loss during the regular season – a 1-point defeat to the St. Peter Knights (who lost their first contest along with fellow local representative Nepean at ‘AAA’ OFSAA, also held in Ottawa).
“We had a new perspective on things as we went through the season,” signals Alex Hoerdt, a key team leader alongside fellow assistant captain Harry Sanders and captain Cameron Butterfield. “We were really taught how to lose and we were mentally tough heading into OFSAA.”
Had Ottawa not hosted OFSAA this year and been granted a second entry, the Colts’ season would have ended with a 28-26 city final loss to the Brookfield Blues, who advanced to the provincial semi-finals themselves and placed 4th.
“There’s a lot of pressure playing rugby at Ashbury,” underlines Sanders. “Ashbury wins at rugby, and after losing the city finals, there was a loss of morale. Moods started to change. But we changed that when it came time.”
The three team captains were instrumental in the OFSAA run, particularly Hoerdt, who had a “masterful” performance as kicker, says Middleton, adding that he “rarely saw a high school student control a game, let alone a tournament the way Alex did.”
“We had a lot talent on this team,” echoes Butterfield, noting the silver medal was that much more special for the trio of Bytown Blues clubmates since it came in the captains’ final year at Ashbury. “We were counting on several players to stand out come OFSAA and the guys delivered. We knew we could be a force to reckon with.”
In order to reach the final with eventual champion Adam Scott CVI of Peterborough, the 10th-seeded Colts survived an overtime contest with #7-ranked Mississauga’s Streetsville in their tournament opener, held up #2 La Salle of Kingston on the goal line to win 11-5 in the second round, and handled #3 St. Stephen of Bowmanville 20-12 in the semi-final to ensure the historic new high for Ashbury boys’ rugby.
“We came into OFSAA and we wanted to win at least one game,” Sanders indicates. “Then, we just started playing like we couldn’t lose.”
3 more local OFSAA team medal wins
On top of the Colts’ silver medal in town, two other local schools were OFSAA runners-up at springtime championships.
Powered by a number of varsity soccer-bound graduating seniors who celebrated an Ottawa Youth Soccer League east division club soccer provincial championship last summer, the Mother Teresa Titans jumped up from 2015 quarter-final and 2016 group stage exits to claim silver at the OFSAA ‘AAA’ girls’ soccer championships in Belle River, east of Windsor.
Seeded at the bottom of the 9-team east regionals, the St. Joseph Jaguars not only made it to the OFSAA baseball final four on June 7 in London, they climbed all the way to the championship game and fell by just one run, 3-2, to Windsor’s St. Anne.
The Franco-Cité Faucons rounded out the Ottawa team medal haul with their bronze at the OFSAA ‘AA’ boys’ soccer championships in North Bay.
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