Football High Schools

HIGH ACHIEVERS: Football returns to St. Mark with undefeated season, NCSSAA championship

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HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic

By Martin Cleary

Tackle football is a major part of the St. Mark Catholic High School athletic program, whether it’s senior or junior boys or varsity girls.

So, it wasn’t too surprising to see the Lions field a team of 50 players this fall for the return of football, after the COVID-19 pandemic sacked the gridiron game and all other sports in the National Capital Secondary School Athletic Association family during the 2020-21 season.

After winning all four of its games in a shortened regular-season schedule, St. Mark held back Ashbury Colts 21-14 in the semifinals to advance to the NCSSAA tier 1 championship last week on Minto Field at the Sandy Ruckstuhl Gridirons.

While the Lions dressed a full roster of players for the championship game and final match of the season, one player stood out above the rest – Mason Boomhower.

A two-way player for the Lions at quarterback and defensive halfback, Boomhower had his hand in all four touchdowns as St. Mark defeated the 3-1 St. Joseph Jaguars 29-3 for the school’s first senior tier 1 championship since 2007.

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In the tier 2 final, St. Patrick’s Fighting Irish (2-2, regular season) shut out Immaculata Saints (1-2-1) 22-0.

Boomhower connected twice with wide receiver Nicholas Cerquozzi for touchdowns covering five and 30 yards. Showing his running skills, Boomhower also rushed 30 yards for a touchdown. On defence, he returned an interception 50 yards for another touchdown.

Alex Tuck leads the St. Mark Lions’ celebration of their NCSSAA senior tier 1 football championship on Nov. 11 at Nepean Sportsplex. Photo provided

Linebacker-placement kicker Alex Tuck completed the scoring with four converts and one rouge off a kickoff. Defensively, Tuck made seven of his 42 tackles this season in the final along with one interception and one fumble recovery.

The victory gave Boomhower his second championship in the past two competitive seasons over three years. He helped St. Mark win the 2019 Ottawa Valley Junior High School Football League title.

Boomhower, who can play linebacker, defensive end and defensive halfback, has committed to the University of Manitoba for 2021-22 and will play as a defensive player for the Bisons.

“Everyone at the school was excited,” said St. Mark head coach Andy Castellarin, who has a staff of seven coaches including former head coach Paul Brown and his assistant Pat Kelly, who both started the program in 1992.

“Football is a big deal at St. Mark. The students, coaches and parents are all fired up (about the championship). Everyone is on cloud nine.”

A shade over six feet and weighing about 200 pounds, Boomhower contributed significantly on both sides of the ball as the Lions led the 10-team NCSSAA football league in points scored, with 146 in the regular season and 196 including two playoff games, and points against, at 25 and 42 respectively.

“He’s the best athlete in the league,” Castellarin added. “He knows the game well. His instincts are his best attribute. He reads the game well.

“He’s quick, fast and tough. We had a good player in Liam Dobson and we hold Mason up with that calibre of player.”

Dobson was a defensive tackle at the University of Maine before transferring to Texas State University this season to play on the offensive line.

St. Mark had a tough schedule, playing five of its six games against schools ranked second through fourth. Besides having a productive offence and stingy defence, the Lions also had strong talent for its special teams.

“We have a special group,” Castellarin said. “It’s a combination of skill, dedication and the boys really enjoy each other’s company. That makes all the difference these days. They stick together and there’s lots of great leadership. That’s hard to find.”

Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 49 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.

When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at

Martin can be reached by e-mail at and on Twitter @martincleary.

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