By CLAUDE SCILLEY
HAMILTON, Dec. 12—When you lose a football game by more than 50 points, there really aren’t many places to hide your transgressions.
And in the case of the dismantling the Frontenac Falcons received Wednesday in the National Capital Bowl, there was really no great secret with respect to how it happened.
“We’d make a mistake,” Falcons coach Mike Doyle said, “and they’d score—fast.”
Indeed, the 56-3 victory fashioned by the W.F. Herman Green Griffins of Windsor was built on Frontenac mistakes. The Falcons turned the ball over seven times and Herman not only turned five of them into touchdowns, they did so with remarkable efficiency.
The Griffins scored on the very next play after the first, just two plays after each of the next two, it took all of three plays to score after the fourth turnover and the on the fifth, they didn’t need any, as a fumble was returned for a touchdown before the offence on the sideline could get its chin straps buckled.
In the second quarter, it took Herman just 13 offensive plays to score five touchdowns.
As a result, Herman won its fourth straight OFSAA Bowl game, its fifth in the last six years and its sixth overall. Frontenac, bidding for its eighth Bowl victory in its 10th appearance, now holds a unique place in the record book: the largest margin of defeat—53 points—in Bowl history, at the same time as it conceded the title of largest margin of victory, which the Falcons had held since their 56-6 win over Ottawa Ashbury in 2002.
Herman coach Harry Lumley pointed to the interceptions as pivotal in the game, “obviously.”
“Interceptions changed the game drastically,” he said. “Every time we picked one off, we gained a ton of yardage off it.”
Herman came by its five interceptions honestly, Lumley said. The characteristic arises from a spring program where members of his team play in a seven-on-seven league in Michigan.
“We play against good American kids, so you learn how to ball hawk,” he said. “If you don’t, you’ll get killed. We won it this year, first Canadian team ever. We’ve got good ball hawks.”
After denying Herman’s third-down attempt on the opening drive of the game, the Falcons marched 64 yards for the game’s first score, a 31-yard field goal by Tristan Halladay. “We came out and had a good first series on defence, and a good first series on offence,” Doyle said. “I thought maybe we were in it.”
Alas, it wasn’t to be. With the big play a 38-yard pass completion from Michael Beale to Delmas Lynch, Herman marched 105 yards to score a touchdown on the first play of the second quarter. Then came the first of Brendan Steele’s four interceptions, and one play and 38 yards later the Griffins had another major score.
For the remainder of the half, the Falcons couldn’t get out of their own end, indeed only once got as far as their own 40-yard line. It was 22-3 when the death blow was struck, a 56-yard punt return down the right sideline for a touchdown by Jalen Jackson.
“We were returning the other way,” Lumley said, “and he just changed the direction of it and threw a move. I couldn’t believe the move, but he’s done it all year.”
Frontenac’s best drive of the day, in the dying moments of the first half, brought the Falcons from their own 29 to the Herman 34-yard line, but it ended with another interception. The ball was returned 42 yards to the Frontenac 34 by Herman’s Weston Simpson as time expired, but the Falcons were called for unnecessary roughness.
Since the half can’t end on a penalty, Herman took a shot at the end zone but the Falcons were again penalized, this time for pass interference. Again, with another free shot, the Griffins scored on a four-yard run by Jackson.
It was a 36-point quarter from which it was impossible to recover.
In the final tally, Jackson finished the game with three touchdowns, Beale had two, Cody Holmes, Brandon McCrainey and Kaine Stevenson each had one. The Griffins scored just about every way imaginable: four times rushing, once on a pass, once on a kick return and once on a fumble recovery. An interception that was returned for a touchdown was called back for an illegal block, but Herman quickly scored, anyway.
“Turnovers and mistakes,” Doyle lamented. “(Herman was) great on special teams, they turned interceptions into touchdowns, they had great field position—and that’s what a great team does: a great team makes you pay for your mistakes.
“They were physically dominant. They were bigger than us across both lines. They realized they could pound the ball on us, and they passed just once in a while to keep us honest. For us, we thought there were opportunities to pass the ball, but we couldn’t string together a bunch of completions. There were openings; we just couldn’t maintain a drive.”
Lumley conceded the size advantage—“we’re not one of the biggest teams here by any means but we’re very strong; the kids work out hard”—and though his quarterback threw the ball just six times, they resulted in what he described as two of the game’s important plays, the long completion that set up the first touchdown, and a dandy catch by Cody Holmes on a 19-yard toss for the Griffins’ third major, which gave Herman a 22-3 lead midway through the second quarter.
“When we start putting passes in and people back up, now our running game goes really good,” Lumley said, “and we always have had a good running game.”
Future opponents beware: the Griffins lose just five players from this team. Lumley attributes the school’s football success to a co-ordinated coaching approach with both the junior and senior teams, and continuity of coaching.
“Three of us been together for 50 years,” said Lumley, whose cousin, also Harry, was a National Hockey League goaltender in the 1950s and whose brother, Ed, was a long serving mayor and MP from Cornwall.
“Kids know what to expect,” Lumley said, “and if you don’t want to follow our rules, don’t come. Go somewhere else. It seems to work. You don’t skip practice, you don’t skip classes, any of that stuff. If you’re doing that, get out. We don’t want you. And it works really well, because we win.”
The game was delayed for more than 30 minutes when Falcons special teams player Dalton McLellan was injured on a punt return early in the third quarter. He took a tremendous hit and got to his knees after the play but stayed there, and a medical attendant held his head still until an ambulance arrived and paramedics took him to hospital with a neck injury. So far, there’s no word on his condition.