St. Thomas holds off a late Bulldogs' charge for a 26-19 victory completing an
undefeated season and a second peewee football title in three years
Monday, November 4, 2019
By Rob J. Ross
LONDON, ON. - They ran the table clean.
The St. Thomas Hawks completed an 8-0 undefeated season, holding off the Bulldogs, 26-19, in the London Minor Football peewee final, Sunday, at City Wide Fields.
"This is great. I always thought we'd make it here but when you actually get here, it's better. I've been playing for three years and winning this mean everything," said Hawks' linebacker Gunnar Smith, the game MVP. "Key was to just do your job and everyone did their job perfectly," said Smith, a Grade student at Forest Park elementary. "It was a team. It was hard work and we always had to stay positive."
Trailing 26-13, the Bulldogs scored a touchdown with a minute remaining in the fourth quarter and attempted to regain possession with an on-side kick play. In minor football, there is no actual kick, just an attempt to reach a first down.
"I got really nervous because I knew the on-side rule would come into play and I didn't know what they were going to run," Hawks' quarterback Gage Hamilton said. "When (Nathan) Bush got the tackle it felt really good."
Usually winning games by blowouts, including a 53-0 devouring of the Cobras in the semifinals, the Hawks had to work for the victory in the title game.
"This was absolutely the closest game of the year. This was our hardest game and the most exciting game that I've been a part of in a long time," Hawks' coach Paul Chapman said. "It came down to the very last play. We made big plays on offence, big plays on defence. We had five or six kids step up and make big plays that saved that game for us."
The Bulldogs opened the scoring with an unconverted touchdown, on a one yard plunge by quarterback Aidan Sweeney.
The Hawks answered with 19 unanswered points, on TDs from Jovin Chase, Bush and Hamilton and one single point after touchdown.
Trailing 19-6, the Bulldogs pulled to within a touchdown late third quarter, thanks to a 66-yard pass play Sweeney to Garin Roles. Then the Bulldogs, down 19-12, threatened to score with four minutes left in the fourth quarter following a Roles' interception.
But on the following play, Kaden Noel made an interception to give the ball back to the Hawks. That set up Hamilton's second TD of the game, followed by a PAT run by Mason Glover.
"I was really happy, just joy. I've never had an interception before so it was really exciting," said Noel. "As soon as I did (make the catch), I heard the crowd go (wild) and they were all excited."
Sweeney, later named his team's game MVP, kept the Bulldogs on a three yard keeper, with a minute remaining in the fourth quarter.
St. Thomas went 6-0 during the regular season, winning three games by shutout and had a 38-33 decision over the Bulldogs on opening weekend.
"The Bulldogs gave us big games. They were the only ones to really put points up on us," Hamilton said. "They had a really good offence that could get outside and they moved anywhere."
After going undefeated through the schedule, the Hawks were the heavy favourites heading into the final.
"Being undefeated is the hardest thing to do. We did that in atom and we lost in the final, two years in a row. It's no fun," said Chapman. "As fun as it is going undefeated, it's a lot of pressure. We were fortunate enough to hang on at the end and we get to hold the trophy."
Chapman credits the players for believing in what the coaching staff was preaching to them on a weekly basis.
"Their desire and their willingness to do what we asked them to do. No matter that position we put them in on offence or defence they did what we asked them to do," said Chapman. "Once they realized we know what we are talking about and it works, they had no problem doing it. They had a lot of fun today and that's what matters."
The Hawks also won the peewee division in 2017.
Cobras strike down atom Hawks
Two touchdowns within five minutes early in the second half, carried the Cobras to a 19-8 victory, preventing the St Thomas Hawks from repeating as atom champions.
"It was a really good game. (Cobras) wanted it and they worked for it," Hawks' coach Andrew Walker said. "(Cobras) executed, got to the point of attack and made good blocks that really helped spring the edge. We didn't tackle as clean as we normally do."
The Hawks dropped the Cobras, 29-7, during the regular season, on their way to a 7-0 run of the schedule.
"We didn't have enough answers earlier. Their size played a huge factor and they pushed us around a little bit," Walker said. "We had crispier tackling last game. We were sloppy with our tackles. A lot more hand tackles."
One loss doesn't take away from a 15-2 record over two years and back to back appearances in the final.
"I thought our kids played whistle to whistle. We can hold our heads high today."
Kolten Bergeron had the lone Hawks' TD, with a two-point catch by Eoin DesRosiers.
Cole Surmacz was named Hawks' game MVP.
Andreas Boldt scored two TD's for the Cobras and was named game MVP. Mason Sefton also had a TD and ran in a one point convert.