If you’re a fan of defensive football, you would have loved spending four-and-a-half hours at Upper Canada College for its third annual “Friday Night Lights” games on Oct. 17.
Portable lights were positioned around the oval to bring the feel of Texas high school football games — which are so successful that they inspired a dramatic film and television series — to Toronto for junior varsity and varsity games pitting the UCC Blues against the St. Michael’s College School Kerry Blues.
UCC entered the 5:30 p.m. JV game with a 2-1 record, while St. Mike’s was undefeated at 3-0 in the Conference of Independent Schools Athletic Association (CISAA) standings. With Blues Booster Club (BBC) co-founder Harry Taylor providing colourful play-by-play coverage, the two teams went back and forth without putting many points on the board. The half ended with St. Mike’s up 8-0 and, while the Blues’ defence continued to play well in the second half, they couldn’t muster any sustained momentum when they had the ball and the game ended with that 8-0 score.
The air was crisp but the temperature wasn’t too cold and the predicted rain held off, which helped draw several hundred people — including a decent turnout of St. Mike’s fans who made the short trip northeast from the school’s Bathurst and St. Clair campus — to join the “Blue Army” on the sidelines to watch the action.
The BBC gave blue glow circles and thunder sticks to kids to play with while providing their parents with program guides so they could identify players other than their sons. The BBC also sold “Blues Spirit Gear” as well as chili, sausages, burgers and beverages, while the enticing aroma of fried and sugared dough wafted from the BeaverTails tent to draw customers with a sweet tooth.
The Blue Army led the varsity Blues on to the field through a human tunnel just before 8 p.m. and Dave Hadden ’71 took time out from a reception being held in his honour in the William P. Wilder ’40 Arena and Sports Complex’s Hewitt Lounge to make the coin toss to decide initial ball possession before the game.
The lack of offence from the JV game was even more pronounced during the nightcap, as the first quarter ended scoreless. UCC kicked a field goal to go up 3-0 to begin the second quarter, and that remained the score as time ran out on the first half.
The next Super Bowl might have Katy Perry performing at halftime, but that has nothing on UCC’s “Friday Night Lights” extravaganza, which featured teachers Carl Beaudoin and Terry Denstedt entering large “hamster balls” which they rocked and rolled from the west goal line to centre field and back in a race to determine faculty lounge bragging rights. It was a back and forth contest but Beaudoin ended up crossing the finish line 10 yards in front of his rival.
Meanwhile, inside, there was a celebration for 50 Old Boys and members of the UCC community putting their money together to create The David J. Hadden ’71 Scholarship Fund, which will go towards financial assistance to enable worthy boys to attend UCC. A cheque for $452,570 was presented and a clearly moved Hadden thanked all of those who contributed and attended the reception — which coincided with the 50th anniversary of him entering the College.
Hadden made his initial mark on UCC as a top student athlete and head of Seaton’s House, but he returned to the school to contribute as a teacher, coach and senior adviser to the principal for boarding. Marty Sims ’82 spoke about the man of the night’s contributions and then Andy Burgess ’83 and Gord Gibson ’83 joined him along with Hadden for a photo opportunity with the cheque before others in attendance — which included leaving class members from years ranging from 1970 to 1985 — gathered with them in front of the cameras. In addition to the scholarship, a coaches office will also be named in Hadden’s honour.
Back on the field, the third quarter passed with both teams continuing to play strong defence and allowing no more points. It looked for a long time like the halftime score would carry through to the end of the game, but a deep UCC punt with 1:39 left to go earned it a single point. Both sides exchanged possession in the last minute-and-a-half and, after a brief St. Mike’s drive, the game ended with UCC intercepting a pass on the final play to preserve a 4-0 victory.
UCC secured its hold on first place in the CISAA with the win as it moved to 3-0, while St. Mike’s dropped to a 2-2 record.
SportChek was the lead sponsor of this year’s “Friday Night Lights” and the event now seems pretty entrenched as an October staple of the UCC football schedule, so hopefully community members can look forward to another double-header (and more than 12 total points scored) next year.
Highlights from the games will be broadcast on the Rogers TV weekly sports magazine program Trending TO Sports starting on Oct. 24 at 7 p.m. The episode will repeat all week. Go here to confirm additional airdates and times.