For three seasons, the Vincent Massey Trojans junior varsity football squad battled for a high school football championship. And the third time was indeed the charm.
On Thursday night, the Trojans triumphed 27-19 over the St. Paul's Crusaders at Investors Group Field in a game that was tight until the dying minutes.
It was the first time the Trojans have won the title in four years of junior varsity football at the school.
"We wanted to be here, we wanted to take the next step this year," said coach Matt Adams, whose team went 8-0 in 2013. "That was our goal going in, and we capped off a perfect season with a perfect ending."
For much of the game, that result was far from assured. The teams traded possessions for most of the first half, but failed to crack the scoreboard until Crusaders pivot Riley Naujoks carried it into the end zone with just over a minute to go in the second quarter. But St. Paul's missed the ensuing convert and the Trojans were able to take a 7-6 lead with just seven seconds left to go in the half after a 65-yard touchdown reception by Abdul Gasama.
The squads traded strikes in the second half. The Crusaders might have grabbed a wider lead, but the Trojans defence stuffed them on a goal-line stand. Still, a pass from Naujoks to Morgan Wokes would vault St. Paul's ahead. But the Trojans trotted out one of their biggest weapons: with 11:54 to go in the fourth quarter when running back Matt Marion carried in the first of his three rushing touchdowns.
Just a couple of minutes later, Marion popped free of coverage and carried the ball a whopping 99 yards to the end zone as his teammates threw key blocks. That was the winning score.
St. Paul's running back Lahai Amara would score with 2:29 left to play to narrow the margin to 20-19, but the Crusaders couldn't beat Trojans coverage to make the two-point convert. The Trojans team exploded into cheers on the sidelines.
"Right then, we knew we won," Marion said.
"It just feels great, with a great game like that, so close right to the end."
Marion added an insurance major, and to no surprise, was named the offensive player of the game. Props were also due to linebacker Ryan Crocker, who figured into some key tackles despite being banged up before the game and limping between plays.
"He's just a true warrior," said Adams. "He just kept pulling himself up, and getting back on the field."