By Larry Moko
The Bishop Tonnos Titans refused to let a high school football championship slip through their fingers.
Although they muffed a potential go-ahead touchdown in the late stages by fumbling and turning the ball over at the opposition’s 1-yard line, the Titans still managed to get a grip for a go-ahead score a couple of minutes later en route to a 17-14 victory over the St. Jean de Brebeuf Braves.
That result gave Tonnos the 2019 Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic senior Tier 2 football title.
“I wasn’t worried,” Titans linebacker Jaden Dowling said of the fumbled handoff which resulted in the turnover. “Our offence has been pretty good all year. Our defence was locking them up, so I knew if we got the ball one more time we’d win the game.”
Tonnos actually got the ball back on two more occasions. And they took the lead when running back Luca Marini scored on a two-yard touchdown run – his second short TD carry of the game – with 36 seconds remaining. Marini also gathered in a two-point conversion pass from his brother, Sebastian, to complete the scoring.
“There was about 3 minutes left when we couldn’t punch it in,” Tonnos coach Mark Marini said. “I said to the boys ‘forget about it. We’ll pin them in here and get the ball back.’”
On the final drive for the Titans, Luca Marini and receiver Noah Puskys each caught passes for 15-yard gains while Sebastian Marini scrambled for two and fullback Jake Acciaccaferro plowed ahead for three yards.
Brebeuf, which was coming off a three-week layoff, opened the scoring in the second quarter. Randy Tshikunas raced 35 yards down the sideline with a punt return which led to a one-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Mark Swietek to Ryan Collins.
Tristan Fair added a convert and booted an impressive 37-yard field goal in icy conditions on the final play of the first half to give the Braves a 10-7 lead.
Fair’s 21-yard field goal – after Brebeuf recovered a fumbled punt – then gave the home team a 13-7 advantage.
Brebeuf ended up fifth in the regular-season standings. Tonnos was sixth. Coach Phil Iannone’s Braves got a bye in the opening round of playoffs while the Titans advanced with a 36-6 Tier 2 semifinal victory over the St. Mary Crusaders.
“We finished the regular season at 1-5 and we lost to these guys by 20 points (17),” Dowling said. “So this was a big win for us. It was our first time winning Tier 2.”
Coach Marini called it a “step forward for the program.”
“Believe me,” he said, “when you start off 0-4 you really have to ask those kids to trust you.
They did. And we trusted them. It took us a half season to figure it out but we won three of the last four games we played.
“And if not for a bad first half against Bishop Ryan, it might have been better than that. These kids are deserving. They were patient and it paid off in the end.”
The Tonnos defence was led by middle linebacker Dowling, a player Marini has coached at the junior and senior levels for a total of four years.
“He’s the heart and soul of the defence,” Marini said. “I say to my linebackers you’ve got to be in on 75 per cent of the tackles. I think he was probably in on 90 per cent. Jaden is outstanding … a quiet leader. Every coach and kid on this field respects him for the way he conducts himself and the hard work he puts in.”
The rest of the scoring came from a Tonnos safety touch and a Fair single from a wide field goal.
Nathan Pratas added a conversion on Tonnos’ first touchdown drive which was highlighted by a Jeremy Hicks 45-yard pass reception and a pass interference penalty in the end zone.
Source: Marnie Jadon