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Saturday, Jun. 23, 2018
Bears claw their way to a junior football title
by Randy Pascal

It's not very often that a third place team in a five squad loop enters a championship final as the favourite - unless they are facing a fourth place team that also knocked off a top seed.

That was the setting on Saturday, as the St Benedict Bears, with their record of 2-2, took to the field against the Lively Hawks (1-3). The latter had shocked the unbeaten St Charles College Cardinals (4-0) 18-15 earlier in the week, while the former tripled the Lo-Ellen Park Knights (3-1) 21-7.

The status of favourite would come by virtue of a 49-7 Bears win in the regular season over the Hawks, a triumph which meant precious little to the head coach of the St Benedict side.

"(Lively coach) Reg (Bonin) is one of the best coaches in Sudbury," noted his counterpart, Junior Labrosse. "I knew that even with the outcome of the regular season game, we wouldn't be seeing the same Hawks' team. We had a game plan, a good week of practice, and the guys had to make sure to forget the regular season."

An impressive opening march seemed to contradict the words of the Bears' bench boss, but the defenses for both teams quickly grabbed hold of the encounter, keeping it close to the end as St Benedict moves on to NOSSA with a 16-6 win over Lively.

Behind the one-two backfield punch of Chris Scherzinger and Ben Larson, St Ben's jumped out to the lead midway through quarter one, with Scherzinger charging his way in to the end zone from close range.

Giovanni Mastroianni would add the extra point, and that would stand as the difference late in the opening half, as Steven Head answered with an unconverted Lively major on a one yard run.

With the Hawks adjusting well in stopping the run, St Benedict took to the air, as quarterback Eric Huneault completed a few key passes before calling his own number on a short run just before half-time.

It was all defense in the second half, however, as the only scoring came courtesy of a safety touch, with Bears' lineman Ben Cacciotti tackling one of the Hawks in his own end zone.

The Bears were able to eat up some of the clock by altering their running game slightly, even if it did not result in a scoring drive that would culminate in points in the final two quarters.

"They moved their linebackers up and had a flat top on the line," noted Scherzinger of the changes that Lively made following the quick start by the Bears. "They basically played their whole team to stop the run. That left the pass open."

"And the coaches noticed that we could run inside holes more than the middle ones," Scherzinger continued. "Our linemen really started sealing it off, and it made for easier running."

With both teams coming off upset victories in the semi-finals, the challenge of getting amped up for a second time in a matter of days was clear. The junior Bears, however, tapped into a little school pride to get right back on track.

"It wasn't that tough, because Lively's senior team beat our senior team (in the playoffs), so we were all kind of looking for revenge," noted Scherzinger. The Hawks will now move on to face the Korah Colts from Sault Ste Marie next Saturday in the NOSSA final.

The Colts earned their berth by virtue of a 25-0 win over the St Mary's Knights (SSM), with Korah enjoying home field advantage as dictated by the NOSSA rotation.

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