This is part two of the Pascal Prognostications, our annual look at the high-school varsity boys football teams. Today's edition covers the teams ranked from first place to third place.ST BENEDICT BEARS (5-0 for 1st place)
St Benedict Bears head coach Junior Labrosse doesn’t want to hear it, but this is really his team’s championship to lose. While every other contending team can field a roster sprinkled with perhaps four to five big time playmakers and a nice complement of solid players in their wings, the Bears have assembled a roster that pretty much doubles that level of elite football talent.
The end of the Sudbury Spartans' season might not sit well with quarterback Adam Rocha, but the experience he gained with a summer in the NFC will serve him well as the Bears look to finally capture the title that has frustratingly eluded them the past two years. Back-up Michael Reich would earn the starting nod at a handful of other schools, coming off the reps that he enjoyed with the Jr Spartans.
Tanner Pattison replaces Eric Elliot as feature back, but it will be the passing game that separates St Ben’s from their adversaries, as Rocha surveys a group of targets that includes Robbie Zulich, Zach Primeau, Brennan Maag and tight end Cole Crowder.
The offensive line of Julien Senechal, Jacob Thibault, Ty Pearson and potential transfer Mashkwaate McQuabbie is more than capable, but it is a top heavy defensive crew that will feature T.J. Bertrand, Ben Cacciotti, Elliott Robinson, Chris Scherzinger, Ben MacDonald, Austin Mader and Sam McGillivray that truly screams “advantage – Bears”.
Throw-in a defensive back complement of siblings Keegan and Brady Chisnell, along with Adam Zulich, and it becomes clear that opposing teams might need to hold the Bears offense to twenty points or less, just to have a shot at victory.
LIVELY HAWKS (4-1 for 2nd place)
As long as Reg Bonin is at the helm of the Lively Hawks, no one who knows local football is counting the ultra-proud school that staved off closure, not all that long ago, out of the race. Certainly losing the likes of Nicholas Rideout, Nick Witzke and Giovani Bagnarol to graduation is huge, but the cupboards just west of Sudbury are hardly bare.
In Lucas Howland, Matti Nurmikivi and Bennett Sobiera, the Hawks enjoy the most depth at quarterback in the city, with the latter appearing to have earned the game one starting nod, and the remaining two sure to use their natural athleticism in other capacities for the two-time defending SDSSAA champs.
Tyler Bell, Ian Carter and Alex Fleury also rank as the deepest backfield in the city, with receivers Eamon Dolphin, Cam Moxam and Taylor Foucault adding some much-needed flexibility to the offense.
The make or break question for the Hawks will come in the trenches, where Lively is challenged to go man for man with St Benedict (truth be told, no one matches up extremely well on the lines with the Bears).
Still, Bonin and his staff do a better job than most at leveling the playing field, schematically speaking, and a core of bodies such as Cole Kennedy, Adam Taylor, Austin Little, Lawson Cavalin, Jordan Michaud, Lucas Desabrais, Clark Besserer and Dolphin is nothing to sneeze at.
Beyond this, the Hawks are likely to rely on a handful of their best players to do double duty, including all-star defensive back Victor Paajanen, holding down the fort with a crew of Dylan Brown, Alec Carter, Wyatt Rogers, Scott Jewitt, Kelvin MacLean, Logan McLean and Matthew Roberts.
Much as is the case for all five teams chasing the Bears, Lively can ill-afford to lose any of their top six to eight players to injury, as there is a pretty good chance that they are then trying to find two replacements, with these individuals suiting up likely on both offense and defense when games are on the line.
ST CHARLES CARDINALS (3-2 for 2nd place)
Next to St Ben’s, St Charles enjoyed the largest turnout at tryouts, kicking off week one with a roster of 35 players or so. But at the risk of beating this dead horse, the real difference makers with the Cards can be counted comfortably on two hands.
That said, every single year produces a surprise or two along the way, footballers who seemingly come out of nowhere. If coach Rob Zanatta and his co-horts stumble across two or three of these athletes, a trip to the final is absolutely possible.
Quarterback Devin Zloty did not look the least bit out of place starting in the OPFL this summer, and things should seem substantially slower for the young signal caller now that he is donning the Cardinals football gear. Riley Yourth (back-up QB) saw action in relief of Nathan Rivet last fall and can handle the reins comfortably if/when the time comes.
Liam Cousineau, who scored his first OUA touchdown earlier this month for the University of Toronto Blues, has moved along, but Buyi N’Galamulume and Ethan Teeter are a nice one/two punch, with Tristan Day (slotback), Logan Wrigley and Adrian Chitowha all capable of hauling in the passes that Zloty might sling their way.
Expect that a rotation of linemen that features Ravyn Mendonca, Aidan McAuley, Daniel Labelle, Cameron Patterson and Braedan Madore sees all of these gentlemen unlikely to complain a whole lot about playing time.
Ethan Williamson returns to an assembly of linebackers that welcomes Brett Bond to the fold, a standout with the Jr Spartans and a lock to make his presence felt in the high-school circuits. Tyler Scott, Keenan Osawabine and Aidan Teeter round out a solid defensive unit, while kicker Aiden Ragogna gets my early season nod as the man to beat when it comes to drilling the ball through the uprights.