For nearly three quarters the Peterborough senior varsity Wolverines looked well on their way to giving the organization its second Ontario Football Conference title on Champs Day.
It was not to be.
The Toronto Jr. Argos scored 35 unanswered point to beat the Wolverines 42-22 at Thomas A. Stewart Athletic Field Saturday night. The Argos improved to 9-0 handing the Wolverines (8-1) their only loss of 2017.
Earlier in the day, the junior varsity Wolverines won Peterborough’s first OFC title with a 43-35 win over the Brantford Bisons. The Wolverines hosted Champs Day for the first time with the triple-header also featuring the Chatham-Kent Cougars beating the Vaughan Rebels 34-20 in the bantam final.
The Argos feature some of the top-ranked players in the nation in offensive weapons Esson Hamilton, Khalil Wilson and Mehki Hyman and were favoured to win. But the Wolverines led 22-7 late in the third quarter.
“They made some adjustments came in with a few different schemes and a different quarterback and the tempo changed,” said Wolverines’ head coach John Parkes. “We weren’t able to get around it. It was tough to lose on our own turf.”
The Argos struck first as QB Jonas Hatcher found Hamilton on a 28-yard passing play converted by Blake Cory with 5:28 left in the first quarter.
The Wolverines didn’t have much going until Brian Petersen intercepted a pass and ran 85 yards for a touchdown. Hayden Bruce’s convert tied it with 10:50 left in the first half. Bruce’s wind-aided kick-off went through the endzone for a single and 8-7 lead. A series of penalties helped the Wolverines get into range and Dawson Puk pounded the ball in from one-yard for a 15-7 lead with 1:44 left in the half.
Wolverines’ QB Ryan Astrom fired a 15-yard pass to Nick Clarkin to get to the Argos’ 11 and ran it in himself to push the lead to 22-7 early in the second half.
The Argos put Hamilton in at pivot in the second half and it changed the game. He tossed a five-yard pass to Jaeden Washington to get the rally started with 2:47 left in the third quarter. He tossed a two-point convert to Wilson making it 22-15. Hamilton teamed with Wilson again on a 30-yard TD pass on the last play of the quarter tying it.
The Argos intercepted a pass on their 33-yard line and Hamilton threw 45 yards to Wilson to get to the Wolverines 37. A 33-yard run by Hamilton followed and eventually Hyman finished the series for the Argos’ lead a 29-22.
“We’re disappointed,” Astrom said. “We could have put up a better effort in the second half, for sure. In the first half we seemed to have them on their heels a bit. They put in (Hamilton) at quarterback and he did his thing. He’s a fast guy and we couldn’t catch him. We did all we could. He’s a good player with a hell of a future.”
The Wolverines had hoped for a different result at home.
“We’ve never had a turnout like this and we wanted to give them something special,” said Astrom.
Noah Perri recovered the kick-off for Toronto leading to a 55-yard Hamilton to Hyman TD play. The Argos capped the scoring with Hamilton scoring on a long toss from Hatcher.
“I got to give credit to John Parkes and his coaching staff,” said Argos’ coach Carlo Onorati. “They were ready and prepared and they came out and played very physical. Our guys didn’t step up to the level of play in the first half. We had a little talk about, remember that Patriots’ Super Bowl we all like to watch when they were down 28-3 and came roaring back. I don’t know if that was it but we had a few breaks in the second half.
“Esson Hamilton is probably one of the best athletes in Canada,” he said. “Khalil Wilson is ranked top 25 in Canada. I’m really lucky to coach guys like that.”
The Argos lost in the OFC final two years ago and were upset by Sudbury in last year’s conference final.
“It’s been an uphill battle and a long time coming for us. We’ve been working hard for this moment and it’s just amazing,” said Onorati. “We get a lot of guys from tougher neighbourhoods in Toronto and some come from difficult backgrounds. For these guys it means the world.”
Parkes said all but four Wolverines are eligible to return.
“We’re a young team so it was a great season,” he said. “We can look at this as a little unfinished business.”
Original Article By: Mike Davies, Peterborough Examiner
Photo By: Clifford Skarstedt