The North Park Collegiate Trojans believed in themselves and pulled off an upset to capture the Brant junior high school football championship on Saturday.
The Trojans defeated the Assumption College Lions 22-0 to bring home the school’s first football title in almost 20 years.
“We came in as the underdogs, they came in as the top of the league and we shut them out,” Trojans receiver and defensive back Brad Ward said. “We believed in each other, we believed in our brotherhood and we all did it.”
North Park played a complete game of football, scoring points against a stalwart Lions defence and shutting down what had been a deadly Assumption running game.
“Our defence played the game of their life,” Trojans coach John Minutillo said. “We knew what we had to do. Kevin Cann is a great player and he hurt us last time, but our defensive line put a lot of pressure on and we had linebackers stepping up. We put it all together and won.”
Cann scored four touchdowns when the Lions defeated the Trojans 42-21 in the regular season. The Grade 9 standout was getting a lot of touches on Saturday.
But the Trojans were prepared to shut down Cann and force the Lions to try another method of attack.
“To their credit, they were throwing the ball a lot better than last time we faced them,” Minutillo said.
The Trojans gained offensive territory during the second quarter, which culminated in a long drive and two-yard touchdown run by Nolan Harris and two-point convert from Matt Minutillo to Chris Locke with 2:45 left in the half.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Trojans recovered a Lions fumble to get the ball back in scoring range with 2:35 left before halftime.
But the Trojans didn’t need much time. Quarterback Matt Krason hit a wide open Locke in the middle of the field before Locke ran the ball into the end zone for a 35-yard score.
North Park missed the convert, but carried a 14-0 lead into halftime.
The Lions didn’t stop pressing.
Darin Clarkson picked off Krason as time expired in the third quarter to give the Lions good field position heading into the fourth. But as Assumption was building momentum, Locke intercepted the ball in the Trojans red zone to kill the drive.
The Trojans then scored on a double-reverse when Locke carried the ball 47 yards for a touchdown. Minutillo hit Ward for another two-point convert to make it 22-0.
The Trojans put a stamp on their victory during the Lions final drive, when Minutillo intercepted a ball with 2:52 left to play in the game. The pick was called back due to a pass interference penalty, but Minutillo went out and did it again the very next play to get the Trojans the ball with only 2:39 left in the game.
North Park ran out the clock for the victory.
Neither team is finished this season as both gain entry to the Ontario Regional Junior Football Championship.
Because the Lions won the tournament last season, Brant gets two entries into the playoff that will include most high school regions in Ontario.
The Trojans will play against the winner from Niagara region during the next week, while the Lions get a game against an opponent from Durham region.
“We’re not done,” Lions coach Dan Padmore said. “And that’s what I told the boys. We lost in the city, but we can move on in provincials. We may even run into (the Trojans) again.”
If the teams win their quarter-final games, semifinals for the Junior Metro Bowl will be played on Nov. 24, with the championship game scheduled for Nov. 28.