Missed chances early prove costly for Hawks
by Randy Pascal
Twice in the first quarter of the NOSSA Senior Football semi-final Saturday, the Lively Hawks were presented with outstanding field
position, starting a pair of drives inside the 35 yard line of the West Ferris Trojans.
With the Hawks coming away empty-handed, one sensed the North Bay city champs were not about to open that door many more times.
A smothering Trojan defense combined with an offense that more than established the running game with workhorse Ryan McColeman as West Ferris
blanked Lively 14-0, earning a trip to the NOSSA final.
An early interception by Hawks' defensive halfback Charlie Dow and a bad snap on a West Ferris punt attempt allowed the home side two chances to
break the ice before the contest was ten minutes old.
When the Trojan defense held firm, it was time for their offense to go to work. They would get on the scoreboard before the end of quarter one, with QB
Mason McGriskin connecting with wideout Riley Geisler on a twenty yard touchdown pass, converted successfully by kicker Cameron
West Ferris would build a little cushion into the mix in quarter three, as McColeman dodged his way in from the seven yard line. Though it was only two
scores, it simply had the feel of an insurmountable fourteen point lead.
Not that Lively head coach Reg Bonin was ever about to give up hope. "I thought we were in it the whole time," he said. "We missed a few
opportunities on offense and defense, and at the end of the day, those opportunities were the difference in the game."
Full value for a city title that would see his team close off with impressive victories over both St Charles and St Benedict, Bonin and company faced a
different caliber of foe on Saturday.
"The West Ferris front was outstanding," stated Bonin. "It was the best front we've seen all year. They had one kid, #80, I don't know his name (Adam
Wallace), but that kid was phenomenal. We couldn't handle him. That was a really big issue."
"Passing wise, we were just off a little bit, the timing was just off. I'm sure the weather was a factor, but both teams played in it." Seldom if ever
blessed with an oversized line, the Hawks were dealt a tough blow a few weeks back with the loss of Glenn Therrien, the situation worsening midway
through the semi-final as stalwart Benen Dupont was knocked out of the game.
"Gio (Bagnarol) did a great job, but he hadn't practiced there all year," said Bonin. "He had to step in and play a position that he hadn't
practiced, and he held his own. I commend Gio's effort, but they wore us down."
In many ways, the SDSSAA story this fall was that of the Lively defense, a group that recorded four straight shutouts heading into their NOSSA battle.
"I thought our defense was exceptional throughout the year," said Bonin. "It was impressive just how good that group was. Our defense really went under
the radar. Even in this game, I thought our DB's played really well."
"They had that one long pass to seventeen, but Victor (Paajanen) was in perfect position. It was just a bad break." Though the Hawks will graduate
some key pieces in the form of linebacker Jeremy Welsh, receiver Andrew Elliot, Dupont on the line, and Dow and Ben Lagadin in the
secondary, the early signs suggest that a more than solid group of returnees, combined with some up and coming junior talent, will form the nucleus of a
contending team, yet again, in 2018.
In the opening game of the day, the Korah Colts from Sault Ste Marie upended the St Benedict Bears 28-3 in the junior final, with Tristan
O'Flynn leading the way with a pair of majors.
Chipping in offensively for the winners were Michael Nicoletta and Noah Grasley, both with touchdowns, and kicker Gaston Matilla,
with a field goal and a convert. Ben Larsen accounted for the Bears scoring, nailing a field goal attempt.