Golden Eagles cap off perfect season with championship
Julian Race is proof positive good things come in small packages.
The diminutive running back rushed for a pair of touchdowns Thursday to propel the Thorold Golden Eagles past the Governor Simcoe Redcoats 44-7 to capture the Niagara Regional High School Athletic Association senior boys Tier 2 football championship on a snowy field at Sir Winston Churchill.
The championship capped a memorable season for the Golden Eagles, who finished a perfect 8-0.
The Eagles celebrated the victory by sliding on the snow-covered field before accepting the championship trophy. They then sprinted to the goal-line as a team to pose for the traditional championship photo.
Race was all smiles after emerging from the photo shoot.
“It feels awesome,” the 15-year-old, Grade 10 student said. “Words can’t really describe it.
“It’s so unbelievable.”
Thorold head coach Duane Kemp was thrilled to see his charges rewarded.
“This team deserves this championship,” Kemp said. “They are such a great bunch of kids. They were a joy to teach — polite, hardworking and dedicated.
“I’m so happy for these kids. They are blue collar and hard working. They work hard and buy in. We are a school of 650 competing against schools of 800-900 plus and showing we can compete.
“It’s a credit to them.”
Kemp, who guided the Golden Eagles to a Tier 2 title two years ago, couldn’t have predicted such a memorable campaign.
“Going into season, we weren’t sure what to expect,” he said. “We knew we had some athletes ,but our line was a question mark. Our line was smart and made it easy to run behind to them.
“Going undefeated wasn’t the goal, a championship was our goal. Going undefeated was the cherry on top.”
Kemp point to his team’s depth as a big reason the season went so well.
“This team was so deep. We had nine different players score touchdowns this year,” he said. “Our coaches, Ryan Cecchini (defence) and Bill McGarrigle (offence), did a great job planning for Simcoe. We knew their coaches would have them ready to go and our depth began to wear them down.
“Simcoe is young and up and coming and they will be good for years to come.”
Race scored his first major in the second quarter as the Eagles opened a 14-0 lead after 12 minutes. He added his other touchdown in the fourth quarter.
“Julian is an athlete, plain and simple,” Kemp said. “He’s such a great kid who plays the game the right way. He wants to win and isn’t worried about personal stats. He’s only in Grade 10 and we are excited to see what the future brings for him. He can be scary good.”
Race, who is in his second season of football at the high school level and also plays for the Niagara Spears, doesn’t let his size — or lack thereof— deter him from competing against much bigger and stronger athletes.
“I have always felt heart matters more than size, so that applies for me as well,” he said with a smile.
All six Thorold touchdowns came on the ground as the Eagles stuck to the basics.
Race and Evan Ferguson had two each, and Callum McNamara and Tyler Broderick also added majors.
“We knew Evan Ferguson was a great runner, but Julian coming out and being as good as he was gave us two dynamic backs. Both have great instincts and are great athletes. We are very fortunate,” Kemp said.
Redcoats head coach Jamie Brophy looked at the big picture of a solid season for his team.
“As for the season, I am very proud of our athletes and seeing that many will be returning next year. The future looks bright for the Redcoats,” he said. “Being in the championship game is the next step in our development.
“We improved all season long and we just came against a really tough Thorold team. They are well coached and very deep with an exceptional running back. Their size was something that we could not manage.”
Golden Eagles 44 Redcoats 7
Johnny’s Rocco’s/Mick and Angelo’s Star of the Game: Golden Eagles running back Julian Race with a pair of touchdowns.
Thorold Golden Eagles: Race 2 TDs; Evan Ferguson 2 TDs; Callum McNamara TD; Tyler Broderick TD; Victor Garcia 6 converts.
Governor Simcoe Redcoats: Andrew Scott TD; Madeline Roberts convert.
Through the air: Thorold quarterback Yvan Canlas 1-for-3; Simcoe quarterback Andrew Scott 3-for-9.
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