The Pauline Johnson Collegiate Thunderbirds gave their homecoming crowd a reason to cheer on Saturday.
In front of hundreds of revellers in attendance for the school’s inaugural homecoming football event, the T-Birds (0-1-1) senior football squad delivered a come-from-behind 25-25 tie with the St. John’s College Green Eagles (1-0-1) that felt like a win.
Down by 16 points with eight minutes to go, the T-Birds mounted two drives that ended with a touchdown and two-point convert.
“The kids didn’t stop playing,” coach Ken Chisholm said. “We all knew we were two two-point convert touchdowns away from tying them and we went for it. It was gut-check time.”
The Green Eagles’ defence couldn’t stop the bootlegging of T-Birds quarterback Mike Knevel on the final two drives.
“Our running back, Bryce Frost, was having a great game and they couldn’t contain him unless they stayed in the box,” Chisholm said. “But they had to sell the farm to stop the run and that gave Knevel plenty of room to get loose and throw the ball.”
T-Birds standout Dakota Brush was described as “absolutely phenomenal” by Chisholm, especially in the final two drives.
“He was our strongest all around player,” Chisholm said. “He caught one touchdown, all three of our two-point converts, two interceptions and we counted at least 12 solo tackles.”
In fact, Brush made a tackle on the final play of the game that preserved the tie. But, he broke his finger on the play.
“It’s unfortunate because he is a player that could go to the next level without a doubt, but the scouts won’t get to see him in action,” Chisholm said. “Fortunately he was a standout in the first two games, so we do have some film of him to show off.”
As well as the T-Birds played to get the tie, Green Eagles coach Dave Millette thinks his team shot itself in the foot with penalties.
“It seemed like every single time we had something go our way a flag came back,” Millette said. “We have to be far more disciplined. We have been offensively and defensively strong, we are just hurting ourselves.”
Knevel finished with one rushing touchdown and one passing touchdown (to Brush) for the T-Birds and Frost punched in another score on the ground. Brush caught a touchdown, managed all three of the team’s two-point converts and kicked a single.
The Green Eagles got touchdowns from Billy Gemmell, Tim Dawson and Manny Cruz.
“We played a whole lot better than we played in Week 1 against North Park,” Millette said. “It was good to get some offensive touchdowns and get that monkey off our back.”
Elsewhere, the Assumption Lions (2-0) continued to show they are the senior team to beat with a 32-1 victory against the Brantford Collegiate Institute Mustangs (0-1).
Instead of dominating on the ground as they did in Week 1, the Lions took to the air to beat the Mustangs.
“The Mustangs have a good defence, so we had to make some adjustments,” Lions coach Raj Saini said.
Receiver Anthony Powless accumulated 231 yards and two touchdowns on nine receptions, while quarterback Austin Sault was 17-for-24 with 295 yards, two passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown.
“(Powless) just found a way to get open,” Saini said. “He is a very smart receiver and has progressed tremendously during the last couple years.”
Josh Tait dominated on defence for the Lions, with five solo tackles, two sacks, a forced fumble and a safety.
The Lions get a bye in Week 3 of the season, but will not play any exhibition matches.
“I had some lined up,” Saini said. “But I cancelled them. It will let us take some time to go back to some fundamentals and fix the little things I’ve been noticing.”
The Green Eagles will take on the Mustangs in Week 2 on Thursday at the Gretzky centre and Millette is confident heading into the game.
“If we play the way we’ve been playing and buckle down on penalties, we’ll be just fine,” Millette said.
The other Week 2 matchup has the T-Birds against the North Park Collegiate Trojans (0-1) on Friday night at the Gretzky centre.
“They are a strong, up-and-coming team, with really strong athletes and some good runners,” Chisholm said. “I expect some really good battles.”