Peter Larsen photo/SJHS

Silver Medals for Greyhounds

by Canadaeast News Service - Monday, November 10, 2008

This article is courtesy of Telegraph-Journal

As a Grade 10 rookie, Bernice MacNaughton Highlanders running back Eric Rioux hardly saw the field in last year's New Brunswick high school football championship game.

One year later, he ran all over it and sparked the Highlanders to their third consecutive provincial championship.

Rioux rushed for 173 yards and a pair of touchdowns and Bernice MacNaughton overcame a slow start to defeat the Saint John High Greyhounds 33-14 and claim the Ed Skiffington Trophy for the fourth time in the last five years at Rocky Stone Memorial Field Saturday.

Rioux's best run of the day came when the Highlanders needed it the most. The two-time defending champions found themselves trailing 14-1 in the second quarter with the Greyhounds displaying an impressive offence.

On the very next possession after Saint John High scored its second touchdown, Rioux broke free and scampered 83 yards for a score to get his team back in the game.

The Highlanders never looked back from there and reeled off 32 unanswered points. The Greyhounds didn't score again.

"I just knew someone had to make a play and I wanted to be the one that went out there and changed the outcome of the game," said Rioux, one of 17 players back from last year's team that blanked the Fredericton High Black Kats 23-0 in the final.

The victory completed a perfect 9-0 season for the Highlanders for the second consecutive year. They have won their last 24 games, dating back to the 2006 season. The Greyhounds - making their first appearance in the championship game since 1981 - suffered their first loss of the season in their ninth game.

"It didn't go our way, but it was still a successful season,'' Greyhounds head coach Dave Grandy said. "We had quite a few turnovers and that was a major factor in the game. It was basically our Achilles' heel. In a championship game, you can't afford to turn the ball over.''

Saint John High had all the momentum in the early going. Bruising running back Caleb Jones and shifty runner Matt Doucet were able to rush for large gains and quarterback Dallas Ballard came up big on third-down conversions.

A Dave Flood blocked punt set up a 16-yard touchdown pass from Ballard to Chris Tilley late in the first quarter and Jones found the end zone on a 13-yard run midway through the second quarter to give the visitors an early 14-1 lead.

But as the Greyhounds went to the air in the second half, the Highlanders defence stepped up. Defensive backs Blake Stewart, Darren Steeves, Chris Roy and Cameron Wade each had at least one interception.

"We really had control of it until near the end of the first half,'' Jones said. "Throughout this year, there weren't too many teams that gave us that kind of challenge. We knew it was going to be a tough football game.''

Grandy said his team's mental miscues proved costly.

"MacNaughton's a good football team and they capitalized on our mistakes. We were up, but we let them get back into the game," said Grandy, whose team lost all-star linebacker Alex Hachey with a sprained ankle in the first quarter.

"It was quite tough, knowing it was the last game of my (high school) career,'' Hachey said.

"At the start of the year, I never would have dreamed of being in the final. We improved drastically as the season went on.''

Grandy said reaching the championship is another "notch in the program's belt,'' adding he was thankful to his players and coaching staff for making this year's run an enjoyable journey.

"Each year your goal is to get to this game and win this game and when we reflect on this season, we're happy to have made it, but we're disappointed with the loss."

High resolution photos are available at Mr. MacGowan's site.

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