McPhee leads Cougars into Tier 2 final
The Centennial Cougars senior football team rode the tough and explosive running of Mahkai McPhee to a 27-21 victory over the Governor Simcoe Redcoats Thursday night in Niagara Region High School Athletic Association Tier 2 football semifinal action at Governor Simcoe.
“I don’t know how many good things I can say about Mahkai,” Centennial coach Brad Barter said of his running back, who recorded three majors Thursday. “I think it is his first year of football ever and he is just a naturally gifted athlete. He runs hard and I wouldn’t want to have to tackle him. He has had a helluva season.
“I hope people take a look at him for the next level because he is something special for us.”
The 17-year-old moved from Nassau, Bahamas, to Welland when was 16 and joined the football team this fall.
“I ran track and I met Arik (teammate Arik Rae). He told me to come out and try out and I did,” the Grade 12 student said.
The 5-foot-8, 200-pounder is a big fan of NFL football and would get his football fix in the Bahamas by watching highlights on YouTube.
“It was my favourite sport but I never had chance to play it back home.”
He quickly became a big fan of actually playing football.
“I loved it right away,” McPhee said. “I like the competition and the drive. And it is a team sport so there is a lot of brotherhood and I appreciate that from all of my teammates.”
It didn’t take long for him to carve out a role on the team.
“On the first day I said I wanted to be the running back so they put me in that position.”
McPhee is looking forward to next week’s Tier 2 final.
“I am very excited. It is my first championship game and first-ever time going to the finals. It is an amazing experience and I am very thankful for that.”
Centennial finished fifth in the Tier 1 regular season to qualify for the Tier 2 semifinals.
“After the season they had, they came out, battled hard in practice and put in the reps and I couldn’t be happier for the team who is out here representing Centennial,” Barter said. “They did such an amazing job and I am so proud of every single one of them.”
It was a team that was in tough playing against the top squads in the Tier 1 loop.
“They are definitely well-coached and they execute their plays so well and we did take our lumps but the big thing we preached all season was that perseverance was the important thing,” he said. “You might get knocked down but it’s how you get up and keep going and they exemplified that here today.”
Governor Simcoe finished second in the Tier 2 regular season and allowed only 3.8 points a game. But against Centennial, the Redcoats couldn’t take advantage of their opportunities and couldn’t stop McPhee.
“We had a couple of dropped passes and we couldn’t sustain drives the way we would normally do but we have a very young team and that happens,” Simcoe head coach Jamie Brophy said.
The Redcoats’ chances of a late comeback were hurt when running backs Samuel Wilson and Carter Small suffered injuries.
“Wilson is in Grade 12 and he will be back next year and Small is only in Grade 10.”
Brophy felt his team was ahead of schedule this season in terms of its progression.
“Getting to the playoffs was great for our team and it’s just working from there. Centennial played a good game and they have a very talented running back. We just couldn’t make the tackles we needed to at times.”
The Redcoats will not lose a single player to graduation.
“We have given them a ton of experience and today we started nine Grade 9s or 10s,” Brophy said. “In a varsity program, you never hear of that and it is a testament to how hard they work. We are just so proud of them.”
Cougars 27 Redcoats 21
Cat’s Caboose Player of the Game: Centennial’s Mahkai McPhee with TD runs of 55, five and 44 yards.
For the Centennial Cougars: McPhee, three TDs; one-yard TD run by Dylan Dellemonache; Adam Dawson, sack; Achilles Paraskevopoulos, fumble recovery.
For the Governor Simcoe Redcoats: Samuel Wilson, TD runs of six, four and one yards.
Game stats: Net offensive yards: Centennial 284, Simcoe 220. First downs: Centennial 15, Simcoe 14. Turnovers: Centennial 2, Simcoe 4. Penalties: Centennial 5 for 40 yards; Simcoe 4 for 50 yards.