More players ready for playoffs despite two weeks without a game
When the St. Thomas More Knights senior football team hits the field against the Bishop Tonnos Titans in Hamilton Catholic high school semi-final playoff action on Wednesday, it will be the first game in nearly three weeks for the west Mountain high school squad.
The league schedule gave the Knights a bye in the final week of the regular season and their 6-0 record gave them an automatic birth in the semi-finals.
STM’s lack of recent game action doesn’t worry quarterback C.J. Paduano.
“Our coaches have pushed us to practice hard,” said the 18-year-old grade 12 student. “I think we’re prepared to go in and play competitive.”
More safety and defensive captain Jordan Brucculeri isn’t anticipating any rust in the Knights’ armour this week either.
“Our practices have been really intense and we’re bringing and keeping the intensity, so I don’t think it will be a problem for us,” said the 17-year-old grade 12 student.
More head coach Claudio Silvestri said having two weeks in a row with no game is unprecedented for the team that has been practicing almost every day since late October.
“We don’t know how they (the players) are going to respond,” Silvestri said. “We’re just trying to keep them fresh and sharp.”
Despite an unbeaten regular season that saw More score 216 points and allow only 46; Silvestri said his players are not taking anything for granted.
“That unbeaten record really hasn’t won us anything and I think that’s how we approach the playoffs,” Silvestri said.
The More squad features a balanced offence that can either run over their opponents or pass the ball deep against them.
Veteran QB Paduano has the luxury of having two stellar running backs in Mike Brown and Kyle Shallow and a dangerous group of receivers led by six-foot four inch Matt Brown, brother of Mike.
“To be successful offensively you need to execute both the run and the pass or defences are going to cheat on you,” said Silvestri.
Defensively, the Knights have been harassing opposing quarterbacks and running backs all season.
Led by Brucculeri and linebackers Santino Gallo and Darnell Swaby, the Knights defence features a combination of speed and pursuit.
“I’m 100 percent confident in our defence,” Brucculeri said. “We all trust each other to fulfill our role on the defence, we know we have each other’s back.”
Silvestri called the More defence very aggressive and very athletic.
“We have very few weak positions on defence that we’re concerned about,” he said.
An injured Knights team lost last season’s league final to Cardinal Newman and heading into this week’s action the More squad was healthy and ready for what they hope will be a long playoff run.
“We have a chip on our shoulder this year,” said Brucculeri.
“Everybody’s ready, everybody’s focused,” added Paduano.
More battles Tonnos (3-3) at 11:30 a.m. on the STM field.
Defending champion Cardinal Newman (5-1) plays St. Jean de Brebeuf (4-2) in the other semi-final at 2:30 p.m., also on the More field.
The Knights are dedicating Wednesday’s game to former More football star Matt Sagodi, who is at University Hospital in London awaiting a life-saving heart transplant.
Two years ago Matt’s mother Sally Sagodi suffered a heart attack while watching the Knights practice.
She died later in hospital.
Matt’s younger brother Lucas is a defensive end and tight end with the Knights.