By Larry Moko
A season of firsts continues for the Bishop Tonnos Titans football team.
Titans recently captured the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic senior high school title for the first time in the school’s 17-year history.
And that was followed Tuesday by Tonnos’ first-ever Golden Horseshoe Athletic Conference championship in the sport – a 28-14 decision over the visiting St. John Henry Newman Cardinals.
As a result, the Titans will make their debut appearance in an OFSAA Bowl Festival game. On Nov. 29, the Ancaster squad is scheduled to travel to the University of Guelph to face SOSSA’s representative at 5 p.m. in the Golden Horseshoe Bowl.
“We hope we can continue to make history for this school,” Tonnos coach Mark Marini said. “It will be exciting. We don’t want to disappoint. We know there is tradition by our board of finishing strong in both the GHAC and OFSAA tournaments.”
Tonnos grabbed an early 3-0 lead on an 18-yard field goal by Francesco Romano. In the second quarter, however, Newman pulled ahead when quarterback Lucas Barresi connected with Jordan Aidan for a 37-yard pass-and-run touchdown.
Tonnos then regained the lead to stay when hard-running Isaiah Shields took a pitchout and raced 76 yards to the end zone.
“Our players call him the ‘Horse,’” Marini said of Shields. “He’s our stud. Every good team needs one. I can’t count how many times we’ve leaned on him this year. He’s a leader on and off the field for us.”
A 16-yard field goal increased Tonnos’ lead to 13-7 and a turnover on downs deep in Newman’s territory in the final seconds of the first half enabled Shields to score his second major on a one-yard carry.
The Titans capped the opening-half scoring with a two-point conversion pass from quarterback Ryan Begadon to Luca Tassone.
Newman fought back in the third quarter, narrowing the gap to 21-14 on a two-yard quarterback sneak by Barresi. The drive featured numerous outstanding catches by receiver Markus Palermo and a 17-yard keeper by Barresi.
Tonnos could have folded under the pressure of a possible comeback by Newman at that point but it didn’t. Begadon rushed for a two-yard touchdown, one play after stepping back into the pocket and tossing a long bomb to Nicholas Galli for 52 yards.
“When they scored we knew we had to move the ball offensively,” the Tonnos coach said. “Because we were able to establish the run, that set up the pass game. Ryan made a perfect pass and Nick ran a great route.”
Begadon said the Titans were confident entering the contest, despite a 30-6 regular-season loss against Newman in September.
“We trust in our team,” he said. “We have great chemistry. We knew we could come out again and beat them just like we did in the championship game (13-7 over Newman on Nov. 11 at McMaster’s Ron Joyce Stadium).”
Defensively, tackle Giuliano Pasquale sacked Barresi on three occasions for big losses. Said Marini: “I think he’s the best interior lineman in the league.”
BT’s effective ground game also included Elliot Blake, who set up one of Romano’s three-pointers with a 56-yard run.
Newman won its GHAC semifinal, 37-0 over the Nelson Lords, while Tonnos took the other semifinal, 22-20, over the Corpus Christi Longhorns.
“We expect to win (the Golden Horseshoe Bowl),” Begadon said. “But we always have to go into the game with caution. Other teams deserve to be there, too. If we play our game I think we can come out on top.”