Football High Schools

HIGH ACHIEVERS: St. Matthew Tigers rally for OFSAA National Capital Bowl football title

By Martin Cleary

The National Capital Bowl high school football championship Wednesday in Guelph was a Tale of Two Halves for the St. Matthew Tigers.

In the first half of the opening game on the third day of the OFSAA Football Bowl Series, the Tigers were able to move the ball offensively, but then the wheels would come off in the form of penalties, failed third-down gambles or poor play execution.

But in the second half, the coaching staff under the guidance of head coach Geoffrey Coventry made a few adjustments, spread out its offence and this time the wheels were revving with results as the Tigers overcame a rare deficit and scored three touchdowns.

After trailing 14-3 at halftime during a cold and windy day on a wet artificial-turf field, St. Matthew rallied in the second half for a deserving 24-15 victory over the Northern Red Knights of Toronto.

The OFSAA Football Bowl Series brought together 18 provincial high school athletic association champions to play nine games over three days at the University of Guelph. The series started in 2000, has grown in size and has been played throughout the province.

The victory was the second bowl title in St. Matthew’s football program. In 2016, the Tigers won the Metro Bowl. St. Peter Knights captured the National Capital Bowl in 2005 and 2009, and St. Mark Lions were the regional bowl champions in 2006. Ashbury Colts won the Independent Bowl in 2018.

“We came out and the elements were treacherous. We were shell shocked. They scored (a 72-yard touchdown) on their first possession on a first-and-20,” Coventry said. “We drove the ball well, but couldn’t finish. We’d shoot ourselves in the foot with bad penalties.

~~~~~~~~~ Advertisement ~~~~~~~~~

~~~~~~~~~ Advertisement ~~~~~~~~~

“This is not how we wanted to end it. After that, we regrouped and tweaked things here and there. The group responded and we got the job done. It was a Tale of Two Halves.”

The main author of that victory was the constantly energized Hugo Djeumeni, a talented and fleet running back for the Tigers. He accounted for about half of the Tigers’ offensive plays as he amassed an amazing 292 yards rushing on 31 carries and the team’s third and final touchdown.

Djeumeni ran hard, carefully selected his openings and took full advantage of the opportunities created by his efficient offensive line. The Grade 11 student transferred to St. Matthew this fall from Orleans’ Mer Bleue high school, which doesn’t have a football program. He was one of five transfer students on the Tigers’ roster this year.

“He does what he does,” Coventry said about Djeumeni, who is considering attending a U.S. preparatory school next year in hopes of being offered an American university football scholarship. “We’re proud of him. He’s the X-factor for us.

“With our spread offence, he ran like an absolute champion … and he topped it off with a touchdown, which he deserved. The offensive line created holes and he saw them well.”

Northern controlled the show in the first half. Running back Sheadenn Bowerbank broke several early tackles and rambled for a 72-yard touchdown. Quarterback Lenox Nizami ran one yard for another touchdown, after the Red Knights blocked a St. Matthew punt by Nicholas Kosavic and started the drive from the Tigers’ 10-yard line.

Placement kicker Johnny Musson converted both touchdowns and sent the ball through the end zone on the third-quarter kickoff for another single point. Djeumeni wasn’t able to handle that 90-yard line-drive kick on the wet turf and it looked like the Tigers could be facing another difficult half.

But the St. Matthew offence immediately dismissed that rouge. Quarterback Jackson Plante engineered a five-play, 75-yard drive, which ended with a 17-yard pass to receiver Christos Zigoumis. The drive included a 42-yard run down the sidelines by Djeumeni, which was his longest of the game. Victor Nwadike Dim added the convert to reduce Northern’s lead to 15-10.

An interception by free-safety Logan Johnson-Graham at centre field near the start of the fourth quarter led to the Tigers’ game-winning touchdown. Starting on the Northern 32-yard line, Djeumeni ran for 11 yards and Plante followed with a 21-yard quarterback draw play for the touchdown. Nwadike Dim added the convert to put St. Matthew ahead 17-15.

After the three-minute whistle, Djeumeni barely went across the goal line on a third-down-and-goal situation for the Tigers’ third and final touchdown, which was converted by Nwadike Dim.

The Tigers’ first-half points came off a 68-yard single by Kosavic and a team safety to end the first quarter.

“It’s a good feeling any time you come away with a victory. But it’s sweeter when you come back from a deficit. It was only the second time we had been down this season. The first was against Huron Heights (pre-season exhibition loss),” Coventry said. “Our defence stepped up (against Northern) in the second half. It was such a team effort.”

Coventry called the National Capital Bowl “a super positive” experience for his team.

“I got a lot of ‘I love you, coach,’ at the end of the day,” he added. “I do it for them. They’ll have the best life-long memories and will talk about this until they’re blue in the face and old.”

Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 50 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 High Achievers “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.

HELP SHINE A LIGHT ON LOCAL SPORT! The Ottawa Sports Pages has proudly provided a voice for local sport for over 10 years, but we need your help to continue another 10 and beyond. Please donate to the Ottawa Sports Pages Fund today.

Leave a Reply