GOTW ON: No. 23 Nelson travel north to take on No. 31 Holy Cross

Braden MacMicken (Left) Keagan Hall (Right/Owen Mertens Photography)

While the majority of programs wait for their regular season to begin, CFC50 No. 23 Nelson and CFC50 No. 31 Holy Cross are eager to get started with some non-conference action in Kingston on Friday night.

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Although the Lords enter with the higher ranking, the Crusaders were the one’s left celebrating their first OFSAA title last season after a 25-8 victory over Thomas A. Stewart. Nelson nearly made the trip themselves after winning the HSSAA title with a 9-1 record, but failed to make it past top ranked CFC50 St. Thomas More in the GHAC semifinals. Regardless of their rankings today, both programs have the OFSAA Festival circled on their calendar again, and are hoping they’ll be prepared for battle in November by testing their skills early in the year,

“Our players must stay focused and continue to improve in practice each night,” explains Nelson Head Coach, Jeff Brock.

“It is no secret that our league is not as strong as it once was so we must continue to develop our systems and remain focused on our goals (Halton Championship, GHAC Championship and OFSAA Championship).”

READ NELSON LORD TEAM PREVIEW
READ HOLY CROSS CRUSADERS PREVIEW

It may sound a bit harsh, but the Lords have simply owned the public side of Halton for a long time now, and are truly only happy when they’re lifting another provincial banner to the rafters. It’s been three years since they experienced the ultimate triumph, but with a crop of Junior Metro Bowl champions transitioning to the senior program, there’s reason to hope this is the year they emerge from GHAC once again.

They are confident in newcomer Ved Hatolkar under centre, but he’ll need to wait his turn behind Keagan Hall, who Brock believes can compete with the best around Canada, and should go onto become a star at the next level. He’ll be working with the receiver trio of Jackson Cooling, Liam Keary and James Priestner, while running back Jackson Somerville should play a significant role after paving the way to their junior title alongside Hatolkar.

Every program dreams of creating the type of factory Nelson has managed to develop, and Holy Cross are no different with their eye on becoming perennial contenders at the OFSAA Festival after getting a taste of the glory. It takes a long time to build, and the Crusaders are aware they may go through a transition year with 11 players moving onto the U Sports level the past two cycles, leaving a gap for the next group of stars to takeover.

They’ll begin the year with Adam Iliescu and Joe Hamilton splitting time under centre, with both looking towards big Liam Silverson, who will provide a 6’6″ body to target in the redzone. Naturally there may be some bumps along the way, but thankfully they can rely on the exploits of Braeden MacMicken in the backfield, who was a key member of their OFSAA run a year ago. 

Offence is what gets everybody out of their seats, but Holy Cross Head Coach, Tim Pendergast, appears to be more excited about the potential of defensive end and linebacker Ryan Mallen,

“He dominated the junior level last year on both sides of the ball. Anytime you have a Grade 11 who can contribute at a high level – that’s always an X Factor.”

The Crusaders will also be relying on Sam Low, Adam Kinney, Jaden Rooney and Mitch Kehul to shut the door on defence, which will be the key to another trip to the Festival.

On the opposite side, the Lords will be looking to key returnees Luca Rosiello, Robert Debaseggio and Carter Islip to lead the way on defence, while Brantt Burnstein will be a stalwart in the trenches flipping between both sides of the line.

Kickoff is set for 7:00pm on Friday at Richardson Memorial Stadium in Kingston.

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