Cougars are tops in Tier 2 football
In a blink of an eye, Dylan Dellamonache went from a supporting role to a starring role with the Centennial Cougars senior football team.
On the eve of the Niagara Region High School Athletic Association Tier 2 championship game against the Thorold Golden Eagles, Centennial’s starting quarterback went down with a bone bruise on his knee at practice Tuesday. It was up to 16-year-old Dellamonache to step into the role.
The Grade 11 student came up big, rushing for a major and passing for another to lead the visiting Cougars to an exciting 33-27 victory over Thorold Wednesday night.
“I was always kind of the backup quarterback so when I got in, I knew I had to step up into the moment,” he said. “I couldn’t let the moment fall because it was the Tier 2 championship and we have all our Grade 12 boys playing in their last game.”
Dellamonache knew he had a job to do.
“I didn’t want to be the reason we lost because of how I played at quarterback so I stepped up.”
To prepare for Wednesday’s game, he was up until 2 a.m. doing his pigskin homework.
“I was watching a lot of TV last night. I will say that,” he said, with a laugh. “Going from running back to quarterback is not easy.”
He went on YouTube and searched out some NFL highlights to help him with the task at hand.
“I was watching Josh Allen and Aaron Rodgers just to get a feel for how they throw, how they scramble and how they react to pressure.”
He went into the game calm and cool.
“I was in the moment and I didn’t have time to be nervous. Obviously I had nerves, but I kept them to the side.”
He certainly did.
“He had to step in at the last second and he put the game on his shoulders,” Centennial head coach Brad Barter said. “I couldn’t be happier to have him on this team. He really made me proud. He looked very good out there.”
The win was a great way to end the year for the Cougars. They finished fifth in the Tier 1 loop with a 1-4 record, getting outscored 175-6, before rebounding to beat the top two teams in the Tier 2 regular season to claim the Tier 2 crown.
“We very much took our lumps and it is good to end the season on a positive note because Tier 1 teams are solid,” Barter said. “They are incredible teams to play against. To end up with the record we had up there and to come down here and finish on a positive note means the world to some of these kids. A couple of years ago we got euchred in a couple championship games and it’s nice to bring the trophy back to Centennial.”
Dellamonache agreed with his coach.
“We had a really tough start and we didn’t get to where we should have been. When we dropped down, we all came together as a team. We all started being positive and we had a good game.”
Thorold gave the Cougars all they could handle.
“It was so, so good,” Barter said, of the game. “Thorold is a very well-coached team and they are tough. Their No. 7 (Tetron Locke) made us change our whole defence to try and cover him. Kudos to No. 7 and the rest of the Thorold team. They played great.”
After going 1-5 last season and getting outscored 263-49, the Golden Eagles went unbeaten in Tier 2 play in 2022 and advanced to the final with an impressive semifinal win over Tier 1 Eden.
Thorold cut the lead to 33-27 with one minute left in the final and had an on-side kick squirt in and out of the hands of a Thorold player.
“Obviously, it is not the result that we wanted. We are a little bit sad right now but we fought right to the very end,” Thorold head coach Duane Kemp said. “The kids didn’t quit. That on-side kick popped up and there was life right to the very end.”
Kemp had nothing but praise for his team.
“I couldn’t be more proud of them, losing to a Tier 1 team like that that draws from three schools. We battled hard and we came from 1-5 (overall) last season to have an undefeated regular season and we knocked off Eden,” he said. “We will be a little down tonight but once we think about it, there are a lot of good, positive memories here.”
Kemp credited his players for the turnaround in the program’s fortunes.
“It was the buy-in from the players and they recognized they had two choices. They had the opportunity to do something special because it was a clean slate and everyone was 0-0 staring the season,” he said. “We knew that if we put the work in good things would happen. Even though we went 1-5, a lot off those kids got a lot of game reps and the games become more familiar.”
Cougars 33 Golden Eagles 27
Cat’s Caboose Player of the Game: Centennial’s Mahkai McPhee with 15 carries for 161 yards and a TD.
For the Centennial Cougars: Dylan Dellamonache, one-yard TD run; Brody Marton, nine-yard TD run and a sack; Ethan Krick, 24-yard TD pass from Dellamonache; McPhee, 40-yard TD run and two-point convert on run; Dylan Parker, one-yard TD run
For the Thorold Golden Eagles: Mark Suntz, one-yard TD run and convert block; Lucas Friesen, 80-yard kick return TD and 11-yard TD pass from Suntz; Blake Sider, two-point convert on pass from Suntz; Tetron Locke, 20-yard TD pass from Suntz.
Game stats: Net offensive yards: Centennial 383, Thorold 185. First downs: Centennial 16, Thorold 12. Turnovers: Centennial 2, Thorold 0. Penalties: Centennial 6 for 47 yards, Thorold 3 for 30 yards.