It will be a battle of the high school football powerhouses today in Barrie as two local teams go mask to mask for grid-iron glory.
Bear Creek defeated the Barrie North Vikings, 25-2, in last Friday's Simcoe County Athletic Association (SCAA) title game to advance to this morning's Georgian Bay Secondary School Association (GBSSA) championship tilt.
They will now play the St. Joan of Arc (JOA) Knights in the 'AAA' title game, beginning at 11 a.m., at Maple Ridge Secondary School in south-end Barrie.
The Kodiaks come into the GBSSA championship game with a spotless 7-0 record after running the table in the SCAA's six-team loop, including three shutouts. The Bear Creek senior football team scored 248 points, while allowing only 24 against.
Meanwhile, the Knights won the Catholic School Athletics of Simcoe County (CSASC) championship on Nov. 10 with a 21-6 victory of Midland's St. Theresa's Thunder. The Knights are also undefeated in CSASC action, rolling to a 7-0 record with 254 points for and only 15 against in the four-team league.
Something will have to give today as both schools put their unblemished records on the line.
And these two Barrie teams are no strangers to each other. They also faced off in last year's GBSSA game, with St. Joan of Arc coming out on top with a 24-7 win.
Bear Creek head coach Keith Jackson says he hopes the Kodiaks’ experience will help bring a different result than the 2021 final.
“We’ve done our scouting and JOA is a bit of a younger team than they were last year. We’re a little older, so we may have that experience edge,” Jackson tells BarrieToday. “We have had a successful season this year and are looking forward to having the rematch and hopefully settling the score from last season.”
Knights offensive co-ordinator Chris Forde admits the Kodiaks have the experience edge, but he still likes what he sees on the field for his team.
“They are an older squad, definitely more talented this year than last. I think they are going to be an extremely tough task,” Forde told BarrieToday. “I really like our talent, but we are a different team than we have been in the past. That said, I believe we are more balanced than ever before.
"Our offense isn’t relying on just passing or rushing. We have both and do both very well," he added.
Both teams scout each other when possible, but also have players who know each other from the Huronia Stallions summer football program.
Jackson says the community football, by way of the Stallions, is definitely a good thing for high school teams.
“For sure it is. Senior players are able to know the strengths and weaknesses of their counterparts. We at the school level certainly have players who have never played before, but that is mixed with guys who have played since they were very young and we lean on their experience at times,” he says.
Last year's regional championship was the seventh in Knights history and their third consecutive following wins in 2018 and 2019. The 2020 season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Forde says today’s GB title game will hold special meaning for the Knights, because it will be the final game of head coach Nick Nicoletta, the man who started the program.
“He has coached this team from the very beginning — that's 23 years now. We were the original Catholic football team in the county and that is all Nick’s doing,” Forde says. “We’ve won seven of the last nine GB championships and that, too, is because of Nick.”
Jackson says he was unaware it was Nicoletta’s last year, but said he also has motivation heading into today’s game.
“A neat little tidbit is that the new name of the trophy we’re playing for is the Gary Inness Trophy. Gary was a coach and teacher in the Barrie area for about 25 or 30 years and he passed away last year,” Jackson says. “He coached me (and) he also coached Chris (Forde), so it's a bit of extra motivation. I told my players that I had a little skin in the game because that trophy is named after my old football coach.”