Under-16 Eastern Challenge: Nova Scotia reaches back to podium, winning bronze medal over rival New Brunswick
By Ameeta Vohra
Kingston, Ontario (July 12, 2019) – After disappointing outcome at the 2018 Under-16 Eastern Challenge, Nova Scotia came into this year’s tournament hoping to improve on their showing.
Scoring 28 points in the first half, Nova Scotia didn’t look back as the team defeated Maritime rival New Brunswick 35-9 to win bronze at this year’s tournament.
This is Nova Scotia’s second medal since the inception of the tournament. In 2017, the team won gold over Ontario in their own backyard. Last year, the team wound up a disappointing fifth place in Guelph.
Coming into this contest, New Brunswick had Nova Scotia’s number, defeating the team in last month’s Maritime Challenge, which is a tune up to the tackle event season between the two rival provinces.
However on this day, it was about redemption for Nova Scotia.
In the first half, Nova Scotia scored early and often in. Quarterback Troy Hawkins connected with Chandler Zinck-Marier for a phenomenal catch to get the team down to New Brunswick’s 40 yard line 3:30 into the first quarter.
After Jerraylin Jordan had a reception at the 20 yard line, Nova Scotia’s second pivot Dustin MacDonald snuck into the end zone for a 1 yard major to give Nova Scotia the lead.
Nova Scotia would continue to add points to the scoreboard. After Zinck-Marier caught a reception from Hawkins for a 60 yard gain, Hawkins sprinted into the end zone for a touchdown with 8:46 remaining before the first half.
On 3rd and 1, Henry Mason tried to get a first down but Nova Scotia’s Simon Keck made a huge defensive play to stop New Brunswick from mounting anything on that drive.
With 2:45 left before the half, Nova Scotia extended their lead when Jude Saunders dashed down the field for a 76 yard touchdown. On the point-after attempt, Alexander MacDonald kicks the ball and it ricochet’s on the goal post into the end zone.
On the punt return, New Brunswick’s Alec Robinson struggled to return It and the ball bobbled on the field. Zinck-Marier was at the right place at the right time to recover the ball for Nova Scotia.
Capitalizing on the opportunity, pivot Dustin MacDonald handed off the ball to Cameron Hunt who walked into the end zone to tally a three yard major.
New Brunswick would finally get on the scoreboard with 2:10 remaining before the half as Javone Johnson sprinted down the field for a 67 yard touchdown.
With 1:04 left in the second quarter and deep in their own territory, Nova Scotia opted to take a knee and concede a safety to New Brunswick.
New Brunswick pressed to score to gain more momentum heading into the locker room. Quarterback Spencer Joudrey gets the ball to Jack Duplessis who gets it down to the four yard line.
However with 1.3 seconds left, the bounces did not go New Brunswick’s way. On a play action pass to Mason, the whistle was blown prematurely and it resulted in the play being redone again.
On the second try and last play of the game, Alex Blizzard caught the ball but fell just shy of the end zone.
At halftime, Nova Scotia enjoyed a 28-9 lead over New Brunswick.
Just over a minute into the third quarter, New Brunswick was trying to pull closer to Nova Scotia but Joudrey threw an interception into the hands of Gabriel Thomas.
However, the moment Nova Scotia took over they encountered their own problems as Hawkins was sacked by Hayden Rowe. New Brunswick’s defence made huge stops to force third down.
Nova Scotia had another chance to add points to the scoreboard by speeding up a play in the third quarter, but Hawkins threw an interception to Alex Pauls which resulted in New Brunswick getting the ball back deep in their opponent’s territory.
New Brunswick could not make anything happen as discipline reared its ugly head. The team took both an unnecessary roughness and then a pass interference penalties to set them back. On third down, New Brunswick’s pass was incomplete in the end zone.
After a scoreless third quarter, Nova Scotia got the first points of the half when Zinck-Mairer scores his second major of the game, a 62 yard touchdown.
With 1:53 left in the game, New Brunswick tried to score on third down in the red zone, but Joudrey’s throw was incomplete.
Offensive Players of the Game were quarterback Troy Hawkins (Nova Scotia) and running back Javone Johnson (New Brunswick). Defensive Players of the Game were linebackers Matthew Shannon (Nova Scotia) and Hayden Rowe (New Brunswick).
Despite Nova Scotia having to face New Brunswick for the third time in recent weeks, the team were motivated and hungry to win the bronze medal on Friday in Kingston.
“Our guys responded to adversity; it’s kind of hard to get up and play this same team for the third time,” commented Nova Scotia co-head coach Dion Thomas-Hodges. “However, they really responded and we’re going home with the victory.”
As for New Brunswick, errors and discipline issues dictated their play. However, the team will leave the tournament with valuable skills to help them in the future.
“We played a little bit poorly in terms of our execution,” said New Brunswick head coach Vince Sturgeon. “We didn’t really come out with the level of intensity we were hoping for.
We were a little flat and Nova Scotia took it to us. They deserve full credit for how they played and they made adjustments after the last time we played. We have to learn from this and continue to improve. Hopefully, our players will take away the level of focus and attention to detail required to be successful at this level.”