Race to the end zone
After playing football for Thorold in his Grade 9 year, Julian Race decided to switch his focus to the volleyball court.
But on the night of the final cuts for volleyball, the 15-year-old chose to return to the football field.
“Everyone was asking me if I was going to the under the lights game and I thought back to it and I remembered how much fun it was,” the Grade 10 student said. “I knew that we wouldn’t be playing a tier up, so that I would get a lot more playing time and all my friends were here and I wanted to be with them.”
His friends and teammates were glad that Race made that decision as the Thorold Golden Eagles returned to the Tier 2 level of Niagara Region High School Athletic Association play with a 23-7 victory over the visiting Eden Flyers Wednesday.
The travel lacrosse player with the St. Catharines Athletics midget squad had a fumble recovery and interception in the first half and a 74-yard touchdown run in the second half to lead the way for the Golden Eagles.
“I wasn’t expecting that at all,” he said. “It feels pretty surreal. I tried to play my best and that’s what happened, I guess.”
His lacrosse training comes in handy on the football field.
“I’m used to contact and I am used to running through guys,” he said. “I have to be shifty on the lacrosse field and I have to be shifty out here.”
Last season, Race got into one whole game at safety and that also helped Wednesday night.
“I was playing against lot bigger guys so I was used to getting hit by a lot bigger guys,” he said. “
Thorold head coach Duane Kemp is delighted Race chose football over volleyball.
“He worked his butt off in Grade 9 and saw the field a little bit, but he plays lacrosse and he is a great athlete,” he said. “He’s shifty, he’s athletic and he’s got those intangibles.
“He has a sense for the game and how to read the play and just flow with it.”
Kemp was breathing a sigh of relief after the win in a game that was a lot closer than the final score indicated.
“It was a battle and a game that could have gone either way,” he said. “We had a couple of breaks that went our way and we let them hang around at times. Jordan (Smith) does a great job with that program and we were fortunate to get away with the win.”
Eden shot itself in the foot with too many penalties and a penchant to give up big plays.
“We are still rough around the edges but it’s our first game,” Eden head coach Smith said. “We have a lot of guys who have never played before so we were expecting some miscues like that, but obviously we will address that in practice and be ready for next week.”
Despite the loss, Smith saw plenty of positives against a Thorold team that played Tier 1 football in 2017.
“It’s a good way to measure our level of competition and see how we do and I think it bodes well for the program.”
Thorold last played Eden in 2016 and Kemp is impressed with the Flyers’ development.
“Each year, they keep getting a little bit better and a little bit stronger, they have some big boys on that team and their quarterback is solid,” he said. “We know that when we play them in a couple of weeks that they will be a different team.”
“They will be crisper and tougher to play against.”
Kemp is hoping his squad will also be much improved.
“A lot of it is mental, making sure the kids are in the right spots and everybody is on the same page,” he said. “And we’ve got to get a little bit more aggressive. There are times I think we say back on D (defence) and let them dictate the play a little bit.”
Golden Eagles 23 Flyers 7
Mick and Angelo’s/Johnny Rocco’s Star of the Game: Thorold’s Julian Race with a 74-yard TD run, fumble recovery and interception.
For the Thorold Golden Eagles: Race, TD, pick and FR; 80-yard kick return TD by Tyler Broderick; 34-yard TD run by Evan Ferguson; 28-yard field goal by Callum McNamara; fumble recovery by Adam St. Hilaire.
For the Eden Flyers: 13-yard TD pass from Blake Maude to Cameron Krulik; fumble recovery by Kai Ristow; sack by Ronald Bonner.
Game stats: First downs: Thorold 8, Eden 11. Net offence: Thorold 185, Eden 154. Turnovers: Thorold 3, Eden 2. Penalties: Thorold 4 for 30 yards, Eden 13 for 100 yards.