The Lo-Ellen Park Knights are sitting at 3-0, well on their way to defending the senior football crown they claimed last November. Yet arguably, they are not the biggest story in the high-school league to date.
Where most anyone who followed the summer football exploits of the Sudbury Jr Spartans pointed to the Knights as the clear-cut favourites to retain their SDSSAA banner, such was the proliferation of experienced talent on their roster, the Val Caron home of the Confederation Chargers contained far more questions than answers as training camp opened in late August.
Sure, folks knew that Braedan Beggs was a gamer, perhaps flying under the radar a little on an OSFL team that often featured the exploits of Zidain Allen and Paolo Grossi and Steven Sola and the likes. But at Confed, Beggs would be asked to make the shift to quarterback, with very little Intel out there as to just how well the grade 11 talent could throw the ball.
And yes, Quentin Harris had served notice last fall that the abundance of athleticism that is likely most prevalent in his track and field season could also translate to football success. Lineman Zach White was also a starter with the Jr Spartans - but outside of that and glimpses from a handful of others in previous years, there was simply very little to go on.
So what has most surprised as the Chargers posted wins over both St Benedict and Lively and were ahead of Lo-Ellen with just minutes to play?
For starters, the dual threat that Braedan Beggs poses is real. While the imposing presence of Kohen Crane stands out as his most consistent target through the air, Beggs has also found ways to get the ball into the hands of Quentin Harris, Jordan Guerrette, Owen Gauvreau and Tomas Autio, largely through the air.
And when his receivers are covered, he’s proven to be every bit as effective as noted scrambler Steven Sola (Lo-Ellen) in making something out of nothing. To boot, the Chargers offensive line has been stellar in buying Beggs the time needed to reach his intended targets.
Defensively, Seth Pellerin has shutdown much of what opponents would like to run up the middle, with the linebacking crew of Riley Gosselin, Owen Visentin and Logan Carr and defensive backs Landon Doyle, Owen Chamberlain and Bryson Smith sure to ensure tackles are seldom made alone.
Such was the case this past week as the Chargers managed to contain Lively workhorse Owen MacDonald, to some extent, en route to their 29-27 win. “I would like to think that I am strong and I try and get low, but I don’t think I took him down solo more than once,” suggested Pellerin following a near double-digit tackle effort on Friday.
“Riley (Gosselin) was right behind me the whole time, helping me out on almost every tackle I got.”
While some may have suggested the Chargers are surprising even themselves with their level of play, Pellerin noted that it didn’t take long at all to realize that the 2022 edition of Confederation football had the makings of a very competitive squad.
“I think it got dialed in right in training camp,” he said. “Our first few days together, everyone was piecing together really nicely. The puzzle went together perfectly, which was great.”
As for the Knights, the champs spotted St Charles an early 14-0 lead but then dominated the rest of the game before being taken right down to the buzzer against Confederation. Last Friday, it appeared that Lo-Ellen was intent on showcasing the full force of their offensive arsenal, blitzing the St Benedict Bears 49-0.
The champs attacked in every way possible. Rushing majors from Steven Sola and Liam Conlin were interspersed with pass and run plays to Quin Mazzuchin and Carson Huzij (twice each), with Massimo Grossi adding a fumble recovery score to the mix as well.
Completing their regular season schedule with very winnable games against Lively and Lasalle, it remains to be seen if the early scares the Knights endured might actually prove beneficial come post-season time, serving as a notice of the danger of not going full throttle every single game.
Of course, the St Charles College Cardinals might still have plenty to say about all this. For a quarter and a half, the Cards looked more than ready to hang with the Knights. While the remainder of the contest got away from them and a follow-up 21-14 triumph over Lively did little to convince that they remained bonafide championship contenders, the tide might be turning.
Taking full advantage of a Lasalle Lancers team that is very quickly falling victim to the numbers crunch (word circulating around on Tuesday has the team forfeiting the balance of their remaining games) of trying to run both a junior and senior squad, the SCC lads left nothing to chance, pulling away early in posting a 36-9 win last week. While Nicholas McGee was once again front and centre with a pair of TDs, the Cardinals did benefit from the supporting cast of Keegan Blais, Joshua Guignard and Riley Bosse all reaching the end zone as well.
Week four shows little signs of letting the momentum slip as a potential semi-final preview kicks things off Thursday afternoon with Confederation and St Charles going toe to toe at 1:00 p.m. Friday’s schedule features Lo-Ellen and Lasalle at 1:00 (tentative) and St Benedict and Lively at 4:00