Two touchdown receptions by LC Hebert, a 105-yard touchdown run by Clayton Jeffrey and strong all-around play by the multidimensional Aidan Power pushed the Upper Canada College Blues to a second straight Conference of Independent Schools Athletic Association (CISAA) varsity football championship on Nov. 5.
UCC was the only undefeated team in the league during the regular season, compiling a 4-0 record before defeating Trinity College School 36-23 in the semi-final on Halloween to set up a championship game against the St. Michael’s College School Kerry Blues, which defeated St. Andrew’s College 30-24 in its semi-final game. The Blues defeated the Kerry Blues 4-0 during UCC’s annual “Friday Night Lights” game on Oct. 17, so the team from Bathurst and St Clair was seeking vengeance when it made its short return trip to UCC’s oval for championship bragging rights.
It was overcast, cool and somewhat windy, but that’s what you expect for November football in Ontario. The conditions certainly didn’t deter the players, nor did they keep away healthy contingents of students, parents and other supporters who came to cheer on their respective favourites.
Longtime Toronto sportswriter and broadcaster David Grossman and UCC Senior Division head Scott Cowie provided play-by-play and colour commentary for a live stream that began just before the 1:05 p.m. kickoff so that fans could catch the action from afar. And this game definitely had more action than the defensive struggle that took place the first time around between these two squads last month.
St. Mike’s intercepted a long pass at its own 47-yard line on UCC’s opening possession and then used a solid running game to move the ball back downfield before stalling within field goal range. The team faked a kick and threw the ball, but it was knocked down and UCC took possession.
The offence couldn’t do much with the ball and was forced to punt from deep in its own territory. A bad snap resulted in the ball going into the end zone and punter Power conceding a two-point safety to the Kerry Blues.
UCC kicked off to St. Mike’s, which moved the ball steadily to the point it could attempt a 40-yard field goal. The kick was wide and the speedy Jeffrey — who broke a previous Canadian record in the junior boys 300-metre hurdles at the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations track and field championships in June — returned the ball 105 yards to the opponent’s end zone to put the Blues up 6-2. A Power convert increased the advantage by one.
The teams exchanged possessions before St. Mike’s kicked a 17-yard field goal to reduce UCC’s lead to 7-5 early in the second quarter. After each team had another uneventful possession, the St. Mike’s defence picked off its second pass and took over at the UCC 19-yard line. It wasn’t long before a one-yard touchdown run and a successful convert put the visitors up 12-7 with 4:16 left in the half.
UCC received the kickoff and started at its 30-yard line. The team’s most sustained drive to that point ended with Power kicking a 20-yard field goal with 1:16 left to cut the St. Mike’s lead to 12-10, which is the way the first half ended.
UCC’s defence forced St. Mike’s into a quick punt to begin the final scheduled 30 minutes. The Blues began a drive at the opponent’s 53-yard line, but an impressive 26-yard pass from quarterback Zach Quiviger to Hunter Okubasu was all for naught as St. Mike’s intercepted another pass deep in its own territory. It originally looked like the defensive player ran the ball back for a touchdown, but the officials ruled that he went out of bounds at the UCC 25-yard line — which was a big break for the team dressed in its home whites.
The UCC defence held and forced St. Mike’s to attempt another field goal, which was missed. The Blues couldn’t get any momentum going and a punt returned the ball to St. Mike’s in very favourable field position at the UCC 39-yard line. The Kerry Blues produced a nice drive but the team was halted at the five-yard line after going for a touchdown on third and goal. The ball was turned over to UCC.
The St. Mike’s defence came up big again and forced UCC into a punting situation not far from its goal line. The Blues elected to take a knee in the end zone and concede a second safety to give St. Mike’s a 14-10 lead with 4:17 left in third quarter.
The teams exchanged punts twice before a 43-yard touchdown pass from Power (who frequently spelled Quiviger at quarterback when not slotted as a receiver on offence) to Hebert presented UCC with a 16-14 lead that was extended to 17-14 with Power’s convert.
St. Mike’s had another three-and-out and UCC took the ball at its 19-yard line. But the fourth St. Mike’s interception of the day gave it the ball back at its 44-yard line. The team couldn’t do much again and was compelled to punt and give the Blues the ball back at its 34-yard line.
A nice Patrick Stevenson catch of a pass thrown by Quiviger put UCC inside the St. Mike’s 20-yard-line, but a penalty pushed the Blues back. That setback was hardly insurmountable, as Quiviger soon found a wide-open Hebert in the end zone for his second touchdown. Power kicked another convert to push UCC’s margin to 24-14 with 6:07 left.
The ensuing kickoff left St. Mike’s with a drive start at its 25-yard line. The quarterback completed a 23-yard pass on the first play from scrimmage and a subsequent long run advanced the Kerry Blues to the UCC 34-yard line. But the ubiquitous Power intercepted a pass at his five-yard line with less than three minutes remaining.
Power stayed in the game at quarterback and he made a big first-down completion to Hebert and then ran to the St. Mike’s 30-yard line as the Blues ate up time on the clock. Two Justin Wong runs to gain another first down and keep possession of the ball allowed UCC to take two knees and watch time expire.
UCC players and fans stormed the field as the home team won 24-14 to capture the title.
Medals were presented to St. Mike’s and UCC players by UCC principal Jim Power before he and UCC Upper School athletic director and CISAA football convenor Brent MacKay presented the championship trophy to the Blues’ four captains. Most of their teammates then came in to get their share of the hardware while head coach Dave Shaw received the customary post-game celebratory cold shower from players dumping the contents of their water cooler on him.
But we’re pretty sure that the win will leave Shaw, his assistant cocahes and all of the players with warm feelings for a long time to come.