RECAP (ONT – GBSSA): Phoenix rewrite 12-year script versus Vikings

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The final edition of the Barrie Central Phoenix took to their home field for the first time this season this past Thursday to host the Barrie North Vikings after going 1-2 on the road to start the season, including a heartbreaking 33-28 loss to the Eastview on a final play touchdown.

If history was any indication, the Phoenix were going to be in tough against their bitter crosstown rivals, a team against whom they had not won at either the junior or senior level since 2003. The undermanned Central team was looking to change history and even their record at 2-2 on the season.

It was a wet start to the game, as the rain and wind made it very difficult for either club to get anything going offensively. However, the Phoenix would be the ones to open the scoring.

On the second offensive series of the game, quarterback Matt Piggott faked a handoff to running back Josh Whyte, and then pitched the ball to wideout Curtis King. He would run it the rest of the way for his seventh touchdown of the season. Placekicker Jordan Travis would miss the PAT, but the Phoenix owned an early 6-0 advantage. It remained that way through 12 minutes of football.

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In fact, the lead would hold up until late in the fourth quarter.

The Vikings would score from around the 15 yard line, as first-string running back Jack Sweazy took a direct snap and took it to the house. However, the touchdown was nullified by an illegal block penalty and North would be forced to punt. Then, with about four minutes remaining to tick off the clock, the squads traded interceptions. First it was North quarterback Zach Pattfield getting picked off by linebacker Jonah Procunier. Then, two plays later, Piggott gave it right back to the Vikings in good field position. They would capitalize off the mistake and take their first lead of the day. Pattfield would hand the ball off and the backup North tailback would take it to the promise land and put the Vikes up 7-6 following a point after.

However, the Phoenix were far from out of it.

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They would get the ball back and score quickly. After an incomplete pass and a sack, the Phoenix were faced with a seemingly unmakable 3rd and 22. Josh Whyte, however, had other ideas. Piggott completed a pass to him over the middle, and the Central slotback went to work. He made two would-be tacklers miss and move the sticks. On the very next play, Piggott and King would once again join forces, this time on a catch and run. Piggott hitched the ball out to King, who outran everybody roaming hastily down the sideline. He would reach the end zone and put the Phoenix up 12-7. Central would go for two, but failed to convert, and held a five point lead.

After the teams exchanged two-and-outs, the Vikings had one final shot to try and hand the Phoenix their second straight final-drive defeat. They were aided by a big return off the punt by Charlie Jeans and set up shop at approximately the 40-yard line with very little time to work with. After a first down, Pattfield tossed couple of incompletions. With 3 seconds remaining, the Vikings took one last shot to the end zone. But, the pass was picked off by Travis, which preserved a 12-7 win for Central, their first victory against North at either level in 12 years.

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In fact, it was the first win for all three Central coaches against their neighbouring nemesis. Alex Jeans arrived at the school the year after the team earned its previous victory, and Joe Lamoureux and Rich Jessome came long after the victory twelve years ago.

The latter of whom said the win was “the most complete team win he has ever seen.”

It was an emotional victory that, taking to account the historical circumstances, the fact that it was against a bitter rival on home turf, and that it came despite having only 18 healthy players by game’s end, is one that is sure to even further galvanize an already tight-knit group.

“An emotional win like this one is extremely important for our confidence,” alluded Procunier. “We had not put a win in the books for 12 years against them so as of right now we are in our prime mentally and physically going into our next match against Collingwood.”

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Rookie cornerback Seth Allen chimed in on the victory.

“We definitely deserved that win,” he said. “Not only was our defence on top not letting anything by, our team was just playing great all around.”

However, not everyone on the Central sideline was sold on the possibility of a comeback after the Vikings took the late lead.

“When they scored the touchdown I thought we were done,” said linebacker Wyatt Brown. “But we came back and that’s all that matters; our offence was clutch and we were back in the game and got the win.”

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The team certainly does give off the vibe of being a “family,” and even those who were initially apprehensive about suiting up have bought into the family ambience.

“What I enjoy the most about being on this team is definitely meeting the players who I know call my brothers and my family,” commented Allen. “Because I’m new to this city and school so I didn’t really have very many people I could count on,” he continued. “But now I have a whole team of people I can on on the field and off the field.”

He says the older, more experienced players, including one in particular, have really helped him improve in his first season of football.

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“Out of all the older players Jordan Travis is easily the one who helps me the most since he’s played corner a lot so he’s always telling me where to be to and what to do at certain times,” he mentioned. “The other guys help me out too like giving me quick tips on the sport in general but definitely Jordan helps me the most.”

Brown is another Phoenix who is flying high after not coming out to the first two practices, and is certainly glad he decided to give it a go for a second time in the red, white and black.

“I made the decision to join the team because we need players and I figured that if it was Central’s last football team I wanted to be a part of it, he said. And I’m every bit glad that I did.”

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Brown also is one of many Phoenix to say that this team is unlike any other they have been on.

“This is the best sports team that I’ve been a part of,” he stated. “We have the most heart, we give the most effort and we never give up,” he went on. “It is insane to think that such a small team like this can beat school like North.”

After the game, the team came up with a new team motto. It is similar to that of Toronto Blue Jays’ starting pitcher Marcus Stroman. He often ends his tweets and posts on other social media platforms with #HDMH (Height Doesn’t Measure Heart), in reference to his small stature. The new Phoenix motto is slightly altered to the tune of #NDMH (Numbers Don’t Measure Heart), in allusion to the small number of players on the team. If that doesn’t adequately summarize the heart, grit and determination of this team, it is safe to say not much will.

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The 2-2 Phoenix get set for a long week to make up for a short one last week before hosting the winless Collingwood Fighting Owls on Friday afternoon out on Red Storey Field beginning at 2:30.

Procunier provided us with some insight into that matchup.

“Collingwood hasn’t won yet but we can’t take them lightly,” he said. “We will be giving 100 percent,” to try and keep it that way,” he continued. “This team means something to this legacy and to our school, and we’ll be looking to impress our fans out there on Red Storey Field.”

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The Vikings, who, like Central, sit at 2-2 through four games, get set to host the 4-0 Innisdale Invaders. Innisdale is tied with the Nantyr Shores Tritons for top spot in the SCAA. That game will also take place on Friday, also beginning at 2:30, over at Barrie North.

 

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