The final tally on Hamilton's Ivor Wynne Stadium scoreboard read 40-27 for Christ the King's Jaguars over the Georgetown District High School Rebels on Wednesday afternoon, but there were other impressively lofty numbers to ponder after the first-ever all-Georgetown Halton senior football championship game.
Organizers reported that all 2,500 tickets were snapped up by the rival schools and close to 3,000 spectators enjoyed the partly sunny, 10C conditions in the south-side bleachers on an almost ideal day for watching football.
And the fans brought plenty of enthusiasm down the QEW with them, carrying signs of encouragement and sporting the vibrant colours of Georgetown's blue and red alongside CtK's blue and silver. A seemingly endless line of yellow school buses surrounded the venerable downtown Steeltown park minutes before the 11:30 a.m. kickoff for the Division II championship game, dwarfing the turnout for Thursday's rain-swept Division I final between Burlington's Nelson and Notre Dame.
The Jaguars also won in the bus-count tally, sending 23 loads of 50 fans in each to the Rebels' 20 buses. But to discern which side of the bleachers screamed or cheered more loudly was impossible during a frantic first quarter of play in which five touchdowns were scored in the opening 10 minutes, with CtK holding a shaky 19-14 lead.
It's a relatively new rivalry on the gridiron, with the senior Jaguars only having established a squad four years ago, and the Rebels making their first final final appearance since the mid-70s. The crunching sounds of helmets and pads along the line of scrimmage seemed much more violent than any regular-season game. Players were thrilled to have the sure footing of the artificial FieldTurf surface as opposed to the muddy, slick conditions they're used to at home. The result was a high-scoring affair featuring many big plays with several players requiring injury timeouts after receiving hard hits.
The crowd's enthusiasm carried through until the start of the fourth quarter, as the undefeated Rebels appeared poised to mount a comeback after star running back John Leckie's third of four touchdowns on the afternoon. The Jags, whose only loss this fall was a 15-6 defeat to Georgetown, led 27-21 at that point and were about to receive some stunning news via the public address system.
At 1:30 p.m., with over 11 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Christ the King's students were told to leave the stadium in order to catch their bus rides home. The morning's junior championship game between Oak-ville's St. Thomas Aquinas and Abbey Park ran late, and the slow pace of the Division II final meant that only a few Jags' fans actually got to see the trophy presentation and short-lived on-field party. The players had to rush to catch their buses, too.
"We were shocked and wondered what was going on because we had been told the buses wouldn't have to leave until 2 p.m.," said Jaguars' head coach and CtK vice principal Mike Harris. "It's too bad the students missed the end part and celebration, because that's what they came down here to see."
Game MVP Dan Rovere, who swept and slinked his way to three major scores and caught another TD from brilliant CtK quarterback Alex Dezan, said afterward the back-and-forth contest left him emotionally spent as he hugged teammates and posed for a group photo.
He added that the bizarre scene of his school's fans filing out of the stadium seats directly behind their bench at such a crucial juncture in the game made the Jaguars even more determined to nail down their first championship.
"It was so weird to have all of that noise and cheering behind us for three quarters and all of a sudden it was gone," said the Grade 11 student. "But we still played great after that. By that point, we weren't going to let anyone take it away from us."
A spirited crowd made up of students from Georgetown District High School's Rebels and Christ the King's Jaguars were fortunate to enjoy warmer-than-usual mid-November temperatures in Hamilton Wednesday at the Halton Division II senior football title game at Ivor Wynne Stadium. The Jaguars prevailed 40-27 in the first-ever clash of Georgetown teams in a Halton final. Pictured above (from left) are Rebel students Keegan Witton, Chris Haynes, Zach Austin, Kyle Hansen, Alex Bowmer, Trevor Hill, Brett Vanderlaan, Brad Peer and Tyler Wilson.