July 22 Niagara Spears report: JV and bantams eliminated
The Niagara Bantam Spears football team’s season came to an end following a loss to London. File photo by Scotty Wood Photography.
The Niagara Bantam Spears football team saw its Ontario Provincial Football League season come to an end with a 54-8 loss to the London Junior Mustangs.
“Our first half we just didn’t play well at all and we were down 44-0,” Niagara head coach Simon Gichard said. “At halftime, we challenged the boys and they responded. I am proud of them. A lot of kids would have just quit all together.”
Both teams had to battle the extreme heat and humidity, but Gichard didn’t feel it was a factor in the loss.
“In the week leading up this game, we did a lot of extra conditioning in practice and we took some extra measures today in our bench to make sure the kids could cool off,” he said. “Player safety is important to us and big part of how we run the team.”
Gichard feels London is the best squad in the seven-team league.
“They have a very deep bench, are very well-coached, but also run a program based on respect,” he said. “I wish them all the best moving forward. I think they will be playing in two weeks for the championship.”
London was led by quarterback Tyrell Campbell, who rushed for 148 yards and three TDs. London had a total of 362 rushing yards.
On offence, the Spears were led by Jackson Stewart.
“Jackson was always a great QB, but this season I have watched him mature and work through adverse situations,” Gichard said. “His toughness today earned him the game ball.”
Jackson connected with receiver Jack Wilson for a 45-yard major and then teamed up with Nick Longo for a two-point convert.
Top performers on defence for the Spears were linebackers, Matthew Gichard, Jayden Gurzi-MacDonald and Sean Perry.
“These boys are all Grade 7s going into Grade 8 and game after game, they were going up against kids a year older than them and they held their own,” Gichard said. “I am very excited to see what this group does next year when they are the senior group in bantam.”
Tyler Crawford also played well on defence for Niagara and also saw time on offence and special teams.
“Tyler is a fantastic player who really stepped up his play this season and his smile is infectious,” he said. “You can always count on Tyler to compete every play. He’s a special kid.”
Despite the season-ending loss, Gichard sees lots of positives.
“I am truly impressed with the players resolve and willingness to work hard. Even in the face of huge adversity, they never gave up,” he said. “They have learned that always hard work and never quitting will eventually earn you wins, both on and off the field.
Tryouts for the Bantam Spears will start in January with indoor training camp.
“There is a great nucleus to this team that is returning next season,” Gichard said. “One year changes a lot of things and is a lifetime in the football world.”
Tryout details will be announced on the Spears’ website in December.
JUNIOR MUSTANGS 49 JV SPEARS 0
The Niagara Spears Junior Varsity Spears also saw its OPFL season come to an end last weekend with a 49-0 playoff loss to the unbeaten London Junior Mustangs.
Niagara finished the regular season at 3-5 while London was a perfect 8-0.
“The players gave everything they had for four quarters, but we just didn’t get the bounces,” Spears head coach Bill Crawford said. “Hats off to London, They added a couple of things we didn’t adjust to soon enough and they just kept executing the way they do.”
London was led by Mack Baker, who had seven rushes for 107 yards and two majors.
Crawford was happy with his team’s season.
“All in all, it was a great season and I hope the players learned as much this season as I did and I hope to see every one of them at camp this winter,” Crawford said.
Niagara field a young team and will have a strong returning class. The returnees will benefit form their taste of playoff action.
“It’s huge,” he said. “There’s nothing better than playoff game experience and it should help us next season.”