Eagles weather storm and Flyers
Mother Nature must have something against playoff football games between the Eden Flyers and the Grimsby Eagles.
Last November, on a ridiculously cold and miserable day with snow flakes in the air, at the Governor Simcoe turf field, the Eagles defeated the Flyers 14-7 to win the Tier 2 Niagara Region High School Athletic Association senior football crown.
On Thursday night, a little less than a year later, the Eagles again prevailed, this time by a 13-0 margin in the NRHSAA Tier 2 quarter-finals. There was no snow this time, but even worse was the torrential rain that blew in sideways on the players and made even the simplest handoff an adventure of epic proportions.
“That was horrendous,” Grimsby head coach Zack Silverthorne said. “I think we had six turnovers and they had maybe four.”
He may have looked to the sky for answers, but didn’t because he would have drowned.
“What are you supposed to do?” he said. “We couldn’t do anything and we were down to running four plays.”
That said, Silverthorne thought the Eagles were the better team Thursday.
“We said the weather was going to bring the two teams close together,” he said. “We like to pass the ball the same as them, but we beefed up and put in a jumbo package, because we knew the rain was going to come.”
Grimsby running back Cole Abernot fumbled in the first quarter, but recovered to score on TD runs of 10 and 29 yards.
“They were keying on (Ryan) Neudorf and he was running to the wide side, so we decided to give it to Cole on the short side,” Silverthorne said. “He had a big game for us; the little guy with the orange shoes.”
The little guy with the orange shoes was less than impressed with the weather.
“It was friggin’ hard,” he said. “It was chilly and you just had to tough it out.
“I squeezed the ball as hard as I could. I usually do it one handed but I had to use two.”
Grimsby came into the game following an 0-5 season in Tier 1 play. Under the playoff format this season, the two bottom teams in the Tier 1 loop moved down to take on the third- and fourth-place teams in the Tier 2 loop in the quarter-finals.
“The teams that were in the finals last year were in the quarters this year, but we needed a win bad,” Silverthorne said. “After getting humiliated by Myer (a 71-0 loss), it took the wind out of the sails for these guys and attendance started to drop a bit.
“We told the guys that it was OK and we would still get a chance to do this and they came back and started to believe again.”
Abernot was also happy to see his team finally get a win this season.
“The morale was getting down and everyone was getting upset that we hadn’t won yet,” he said. “Everyone was getting grumpy with each other and this win means a lot to everyone, especially all the seniors who are done this year.”
Playing their first season of Tier 1 ball was a difficult experience for the Eagles.
“It’s tough because you are playing senior teams and we’ve got five juniors that start,” Silverthorne said. “We have to get a junior program — we know that — but we are still getting 35 kids out now at the end.”
Abernot agreed that Tier 1 football was tough, adding that he was injured twice during the regular season. His last injury came three weeks ago versus Greater Fort Erie; Thursday’s quarter-final was his first game back on the field.
Silverthorne plans to return with his team to Tier 1 play next season.
“I think if you make the jump, you should man up and stay.”
Abernot, who is done high school this year, agreed with that assessment.
“If we put in the practice, we can do it.”
Eden head coach Jordan Smith was sad to see his team’s season come to an end.
“It obviously wasn’t ideal,” he said. “There were a lot of turnovers today and we played the elements very, very hard. We try to run a balanced attack, so trying to rely a lot on the run game really sets us back.”
He was proud of his team.
“They did as well as they could under the conditions and for the guys who are coming back next year, I hope they are looking forward to playing some more football.”
Eden went 2-4 in regular-season play before losing to Grimsby in the quarter-finals.
“The teams were very evenly matched and even having Tier 1 Grimsby come down and play us, it was still a close game,” Smith said. “I think the elements played a huge role for both sides today, but it’s a good comparator for us to know that we can compete against a Tier 1 team.”
He feels his team will take the loss in stride.
“I know there is going to be some long faces but it’s educational and it’s a learning moment for them,” he said. “It’s something they will remember and something they can look back on and hopefully the season as a whole was a positive for them.
“For me when I played, these are the days that I remember as much as the days that were good. They taught me great life skills.”
Eagles 13 Flyers 0
Johnny Rocco’s/Mick and Angelo’s Player of the Game: Grimsby’s Cole Abernot with TD runs of 10 and 29 yards.
For the Grimsby Eagles: Abernot, two TDs; Liam Wylie and Mitch Sokol, fumble recoveries; Connor Craftchick, forced fumble; Justin Dawe-Meyers, sack.
For the Eden Flyers: Fumble recoveries by Colton Leslie (2) and Benjamin Meier; Stuart Huebert, many, many tackles.