The Gemini football team finished the 2014 TVRA Varsity season Thursday like they started it – with a shutout victory.
Glendale HS blanked St. Thomas Central Elgin CI 32-0 to win the Varsity A Bowl on their home field, defending their 2013 title – a rare feat in TVRA varsity football.
Kyle Sinden led Tillsonburg's offence with a touchdown in the first, second and third quarters, the last one converted by Troy Lamoure to give Glendale a 19-0 lead. Malachi Morris quickly added to it with a touchdown reception less than two minutes later, also converted by Lamoure. Michael Ram completed the scoring with an interception touchdown late in the third quarter.
Winning back-to-back, said Morris, felt just as good the second time.
"This year, it feel like it's the same – if not bigger – because no varsity team has gone it back-to-back years, so it's pretty big for us to be the first team to do that. We were really excited to do it."
The Gemini have one more exhibition scheduled next Thursday, Morris noted, and the team played Thursday's varsity final with that game in mind. Glendale will host the SWOSSA AA champion (Windsor Kennedy or Leamington Cardinal Carter). Game time TBA.
"We had more than just the Bowl to play for. It's going to be a similar game to Huron Heights – we're going to have to come out strong and play our best game."
The first half Thursday was a bit rocky, admitted Glendale's Liam Spencer.
"We came out of the gates a bit slow. We got together at half, started having a lot of fun. I think the guys forgot what we were playing for in the first half. They weren't having fun, they were hard on themselves. The second half, we came together, started having fun, started playing as a team, like we could. Everything came together on offence and defence."
Penalties were also a factor in the first half.
"We were struggling in the first half, we were beating ourselves," said Gemini coach Lee Janzen. "The penalties were... a lot of them, it was us. Offsides. We were trying to go on different snap counts. To be honest, we were trying to do too much. We simplified it at half. We just said forget it – we threw it out at half. We said, 'we're doing too much, let's just go back to our type of football.' We were getting too complicated."
An outside linebacker and offensive guard, fourth-year football veteran Griffin Billard said the Gemini defence had a little trouble with the run at first.
"Then basically we were doing all year – just pounding the run. Our secondary stepped up big whenever they tried to pass. We got a pic-six (Michael Ram's touchdown off an interception), which is always nice. We shut the run down, playcalling was great. We were just doing what we did all year. It started from the first game and that's the best way to finish it off, with a shutout."
The regular season was filled with shutouts. Glendale went three straight games without giving up a point. Ingersoll, who finished 5-2, ended that streak in Week 4 with a pair of TDs in Glendale's 42-12 win. The 30-point differential was the closest any team got during the regular season. Montcalm did score a point in Week 5, Westminster scored a point in London, and Westminster scored two touchdowns in last week's semifinal.
"I think we started off strong and just kept it on throughout," said Billard. "We were focused throughout the whole season, we never let off."
Their only loss of the season came in an exhibition game against Newmarket's Huron Heights at Glendale.
"That brought us closer together," said Billard. "It showed that we could be with the top teams in the province. It was good for us."
"Our team's playing good football," said Spencer. "It's an amazing thing to be a part of. Last year, it was surreal. This year, it's definitely bitter-sweet. Playing football with all these fifth years since, they've been my inspiration and mentors since I started playing in high school. And that was my last (playoff) game with them."
Both Spencer and Morris plan to return for a fifth year at Glendale.
"We'll have a good team next year," Spencer predicted. "Quite a few guys are coming back, but it's going to be a complete new team. Some coaching staff might have to leave too. It's going to be a new Gemini team next year, but still set on the same goal. We still want that trophy... three years in a row. The season starts now."
While most of last year's varsity championship team returned, there will be some turnover this year.
"Our noseguard, Clarke, he's Grade 11," said Billard, noting there will also be some quality players returning for a three-peat. "And he started last year too – so he'll take the reins. I know a lot of people are leaving – but we're still confident. We still have a lot of good guys coming up and I'm confident they'll put in the work, they'll learn the game, and keep the team going from where we left off."