A great finish to Joe Mac Football season
by Randy Pascal
The Joe MacDonald Youth Football League (JMYFL) capped off their 2017 season with arguably the most entertaining and dramatic game of the year.
Locked in a scoreless battle through regulation time, the Bantam Hurricanes and Mustangs went to overtime to decide matters. Alessio
Capasso sailed a 32 yard field goal through the uprights, lifting the Hurricanes to a 4-0 win in a league where four points are awarded for what is
conventionally a three point effort, a motivator in developing the kicking game.
"This would probably be the second most exciting final I have been a part of, next to our first championship win in the third year in the league," noted
long-time Hurricanes' coach Randy Stevens.
"We stopped a team on the two yard line with under a minute left in that game and we were up by five. But having a 0-0 game and then scoring a 35 yard
field goal to go ahead 4-0 was just as exciting. You can't get much tighter on defense than 0-0."
"It was definitely tense for both teams the whole game, but it was exciting. It got the kids' attention." With nearly a quarter century of volunteer
coaching experience in the JMYFL, Stevens is easily among the most dedicated men in his craft.
He is also committed to trying to cover as many aspects of the game as humanly possible with his troops, in spite of a shortened season, including the
one area that would make a particular difference a few weeks back.
"The first practice of the year, everybody gets three chances to punt the ball and be a field goal kicker, and then we go from there," said Stevens. "I
always want to know who has played soccer, because they are obviously used to kicking a ball."
"We got the same 35 yard field goal from the same player (Capasso) on the last play of the game last year, to put us in the final." Thankfully, there
was plenty of kudos to be doled out, including to a unit that ultimately allowed their kicker the opportunity for his game-winning boot.
"I was so impressed with how our D line got into the backfield quickly, causing chaos in the backfield, whether it was quarterback sacks, or tackling
their running backs for losses. That was critical because the Mustangs have a good running game, they have two very good running backs."
"We shut them down for a good portion of the game." And as always, the JMYFL mainstay and childhood friend of the fallen officer for which the league
is named had no issue identifying the "under the radar" talent on his team that would come to the forefront at the most opportune times.
"Cam Langeman is a first time football player," noted Stevens. "He played defensive line for a bit when we needed to give one of our other lineman
a break. But with his size and speed, he created havoc in the backfield, so we left him there. That was nice to see."
The 2017 Hurricanes lineup features Jamal Bisschops, Mikai Bisschops, Noah Squires, Quinton McCauley, Devin Zolty, Josh Morin, Jack Beauchamp, Austin
Rees, Cam Langeman, Jacob Langdon, Alessio Capasso, Roo Astgen, Nolan Joyce and Noah Thibeault.
In Tyke play, the Pirates completed their perfect season with a 26-0 win over the Demons, with running back Steven Sola among the
key contributors all year long.
A grade six student at R.L. Beattie Public School, Sola is now in his fourth year in the league, an shifty undersized athlete who darts in and out
of traffic with reckless abandon. "I just watched football with my dad and I decided I liked to see the guys tackle, so I wanted to try it out on my own,"
stated the 11 year old of his initiation to the game a few years back.
"I like to run with the ball and score touchdowns," he continued. "I look at my blockers, because they're always pushing them one way, so the other way
is open. I try and juke them out, go one way, then the other. It works, as you can see."
Despite being proudly the second smallest player on the team - younger brother Niki holds the distinction of being shorter - neither of the Sola's
shy away from physical play, with players in the JMYFL encouraged the find playing time both on offense and defense.
"With the big guys, since they are all steady, we tackle them low and they fall down," said Sola with a smile. It was a strategy that worked time and
time again, as the Joe MacDonald Youth Football League continues to stress key fundamental development, preparing the next wave of youngsters for the thrill
of Friday Night Lights at the secondary school level.