By Sam Laskaris

Football is indeed a game of inches.

Unfortunately, the Huron Heights Warriors found that out the hard way on Friday as they were edged 9-8 by Burlington’s Nelson Lords in the Junior Metro Bowl championship final staged in Toronto.

The Warriors had a couple of chances to pull ahead late in the contest, held at the Eugene Melnyk Sports Field at St. Michael’s College.

For starters, the Huron Heights squad thought it had scored what potentially could have been the game-winning touchdown when star running back Caleb St. Clair trotted into the Lords’ end zone on a 14-yard run with 83 seconds remaining on the game clock.

That Warriors’ celebration, however, was short-lived as the play was negated due to an unnecessary roughness penalty, which pushed the Huron Heights squad back 15 yards.

Then, in the final minute of action, Warriors’ captain Marco Liegghio lined up for a 38-yard field goal attempt. With his club trailing 9-7 at that time, a successful kick would have put the Huron Heights team up by one.

By Liegghio’s kick was inches wide of the upright and the Lords conceded a single point on the play to make the score 9-8 in their favour.

“Obviously it’s a tough one to swallow,” Liegghio said. “Losing by one point it really does suck.

I just feel we’re going to remember this feeling inside of us and come next year the Grade 9s are going to avenge us and they’re going to bring it back home for us. And us Grade 10s going up we’re going to a really good coach and he’s going to develop us and get us the attention we need to take it to the next level.”

St. Clair’s called-back TD wasn’t the only late play that infuriated the Warriors and their supporters.

There was also a bit of confusion during Liegghio’s field goal attempt. As he was lining up to kick, a Nelson player ran towards the sideline in an attempt to get off the field. The Lords’ player ran into the Warriors’ bench but then came back onto the field of play during Liegghio’s kick.

None of the game officials, however, threw a penalty flag.

“I was hearing that they had a guy too many and the refs were saying a guy too short,” Liegghio said. “There was just a lot of confusion. I was just mainly focussing on getting the kick through. And then it didn’t go as planned.”

Like his teammates, Warriors’ quarterback Lukas Mihelic was rather disappointed his side was not able to register a victory.

“We wanted to take it home for the team, for coaches and for history because we would be remembered in school as being the first junior team to do that,” he said.

This year’s Huron Heights squad compiled an over-all record of 9-2. It was the first Warriors’ team to participate in the Junior Metro Bowl playdowns. And it was also the first York Region club to advance to the Junior Metro Bowl championship match.

Mihelic, who scored Huron Heights’ lone TD on a five-yard run, said a win on Friday would have been the ideal ending for his team. But he said it was still an outstanding season for his club.

“We’re just going to keep our heads high, hit the weight room and get ready for next season,” said Mihelic, who will be returning to the junior ranks in 2023 as he is a Grade 9 student. Liegghio had attempted just one other field goal this season, a 30-yarder which hit the upright and stayed out.

Mihelic said he thought Leigghio would connect on his late-minute kick.

“I thought he was going to be able to,” Mihelic said. “We should have just tried to take it up a bit more to get him closer maybe. But that’s not his fault because we put him in that situation. So that’s on me and the offence.”

Leigghio added there was no sense fretting over his missed opportunity.

“I knew I had the distance,” he said. “I’ve kicked it tons of times in practice. Even yesterday I was kicking from there consistently, from the 30-yard mark. It didn’t go and I have to move on.”

Both Leigghio and Mihelic said participating in a championship final was a nerve-wracking experience for the Warriors.

“The nerves were really high going into the game but come halfway through the first the nerves were kind of gone and that’s when we started to play Huron football,” Liegghio said. “Just like any football game there was adversity, there was ups and downs. I guess they just wanted it more and they got it.”

Mihelic also knew some of his teammates were apprehensive about the match.

“Some of them were nervous but some of them weren’t,” he said. “We just held our heads high and wanted to make history for the school.”

Despite coming up a bit short of their ultimate goal, team members can still celebrate the fact they were part of the best junior squad Huron Heights has ever fielded.



By Sam Laskaris

The Huron Heights Warriors have punched their ticket to the Junior Metro Bowl championship final.

The Newmarket-based Warriors advanced to the final of the eight-team invitational tournament with a convincing 41-14 victory over Niagara Falls’ A.N. Myer Marauders in the semi-final tilt held Tuesday afternoon in Toronto.

Huron Heights will now square off against Burlington’s Nelson Lords in Friday’s championship contest, which will be held at the Eugene Melnyk Sports Field, located at St. Michael’s College.

The opening kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m.

Both Junior Metro Bowl semis were also staged at St. Michael’s College.

Nelson qualified for the final earlier on Tuesday with a dominating 68-7 triumph over the host St. Michael’s College Kerry Blues in its semi.

Darcy Winsor was one of the key contributors to the Warriors’ semi-final W, scoring a pair of touchdowns, while playing defence.

For starters, Winsor managed to pounce on the ball in the Marauders’ end zone following a high botched snap midway through the second quarter.

Winsor scored his second major via a pick six. After intercepting an A.N. Myer pass, he scampered untouched about 20 yards into the Marauders’ end zone.

Winsor was surprised he was able to score a pair of TDs during the match.

“I wasn’t even expecting to get one on offence and I didn’t,” he said. “Defence was a lot better. Defence is my thing.”

Following their victory over the Marauders, the Warriors were presented with a trophy for being the Ontario Regional Junior Football Championship South-East Conference champions.

“That one doesn’t count,” Winsor said. “That bowl means nothing to us. We’ve got to get the (Junior) Metro Bowl.”

The Warriors and Lords have already faced each other once this year. Huron Heights eked out a 13-12 win in the season opener for both squads back on Sept. 9.

Winsor is anticipating another closely contested battle.

“It’s going to be a really good game, close again like the last one,” he said. “It will be an amazing game.”

Winsor added the Warriors were well prepared to square off against the Marauders.

“Everything that they threw at us we saw on film,” he said. “Maybe a couple plays but they didn’t really work out that well. But yeah, we watched our film and did what we had to do.”

Huron Heights coach Paul Stathopulous knew the A.N. Myer club would provide his charges with a stiff challenge.

“We knew they had a really exciting offence (with) a lot of motion, a lot of quads, which we typically don’t see especially at this level,” he said. “Their quarterback was easily the best quarterback we’ve seen all year. He could make every throw and he’s very shifty in the pocket. So, it’s hard to not only contain him but cover the passes at the same time.”

The Warriors’ defence, however, responded admirably to the challenge.

Caleb St. Clair was once again on offensive force for Huron Heights scoring three touchdowns.

St. Clair opened the scoring with a 10-yard TD run late in the opening quarter. He also scored via a one-yard run with 26 seconds remaining in the opening half.

St. Clair then picked up his third TD, with a 10-yard run early in the third quarter.

Luke Mercuri scored the Warriors’ other touchdown early in the second quarter.

Meanwhile, Marco Liegghio successfully booted five of his six point after converts.

Like Winsor, Stathopulos is anticipating the Lords will provide some formidable opposition in Friday’s championship final.

“It’s going to be a tight game,” he said. “They’re a really good squad – a lot of power football. They’re a good fundamental football team – great tackling, great blocking, great running. It’s going to be a great game.”

Stathopulos said his charges are somewhat bigger on the offensive and defensive lines.

“But at the same time with the skill that they have and how fast they get to the football, that really gets nullified with size because they really fly to the ball on defence,” Stathopulos added of the Lords. “We’re really going to have to block it up well. Defensively we’re going to have to control the middle, control the line. If we can do that, then we’re good.”




By Sam Laskaris

The Huron Heights Warriors junior football squad managed to take another step forward towards achieving its ultimate goal this season.

The Warriors blanked the host David Suzuki Grizzlies of Brampton 29-0 on Wednesday in their Junior Metro Bowl quarter-final matchup.

The contest, played on a snow-covered field, was an historic one for the Warriors.

“Our team is very excited because our coaches told us we are the first Huron Heights team to play in the Junior Metro Bowl (playdowns),” said Warriors’ quarterback Lukas Mihelic.

Although Huron Heights managed to score four touchdowns in the contest, it wasn’t until the second half that the Warriors took control.

Huron Heights led 9-0 at halftime.

“In the first half our offence wasn’t doing too well,” Mihelic said.

The Warriors’ QB believes the chilly conditions played a role in that. “It was a little bit of a factor,” he said of the snowy field, which in turn resulted in a slippery game ball.

Mihelic said that would help explain the uncharacteristic four turnovers Huron Heights had throughout the game while snapping the ball.

The wet playing conditions also meant the Warriors had to make some adjustments while on offence.

“During the game our coaches told us not to be trying for jukes,” Mihelic said. “We had to focus on ball control and just running straight up the field.”

The Warriors started taking charge in the second half of Wednesday’s outing when Mihelic scored a TD via a one-yard run.

Huron Heights’ star running back Caleb St. Clair added a pair of majors later on.

Owen Mackey had scored the Warriors’ first TD after he returned a blocked punt into the Grizzlies’ end zone.

Also, Daniel Nesbitt was credited with a pair of points after making a tackle for a safety. The David Suzuki squad also conceded another safety after its punter took a knee in the end zone.

And Warriors’ kicker Marco Leigghio earned a point with a successful point after convert.

Two other Junior Metro Bowl quarter-final games were also held on Wednesday.

The host St. Michael’s Kerry Blues of Toronto downed the Holy Trinity Titans of Courtice 21-12 in their tilt.

And Burlington’s Nelson Lords downed Mississauga’s Lorne Park Spartans 41-13 in their contest.

Meanwhile, the other quarter-final, featuring the Niagara Region public school champs versus the Niagara Region Catholic school winners, is scheduled for Friday.

The Warriors have a keen interest in that outcome as they are scheduled to play the winner of that battle in a Junior Metro Bowl semi-final this coming Tuesday @ 1:00 pm at St. Michael’s College in Toronto.

NOTE: Niagara’s AN Myer won their Quarter-Final over St. Francis to advance to the semi-finals versus the Warriors.

St. Michael’s is set to face Nelson in the other semi.

The Junior Metro Bowl championship final is set for next Friday (Nov. 25).

Mihelic and his teammates are hoping they do get the opportunity to play next week.

“We’ve been training had since the summer,” he said. “Our team is confident we can win.”



By Sam Laskaris

The Huron Heights Warriors junior football squad will enter its season-ending tournament on an upbeat note.

The Warriors travelled to Markham on Thursday and registered a 33-30 victory over the host Bill Crothers Colts.

With the win, the Huron Heights squad improved its 2022 record to 7-1. More importantly, however, the victory allowed the Warriors to avenge their lone loss of the season thus far.

The Colts had eked out a 9-7 win over Huron Heights a few weeks ago.

The Huron Heights club is now gearing up for the Junior Metro Bowl competition. Exact dates of games have yet to be confirmed.

St. Michael’s College in Toronto traditionally organizes the invitational tournament featuring many of the top high school junior programs in the province.

Tournament officials had announced the opening-round matchups for an eight-team event on Wednesday.

But Warriors’ coach John Stathopulos said he was told a day later that his side would have to participate in a play-in game, in all likelihood this coming week, against a Brantford team.

Stathopulos said he doesn’t mind having to take part in a play-in match as the Warriors would have had a bye week, since some of the Junior Metro Bowl participants are still competing in their own league playoffs this coming week.

“We don’t mind the extra game,” Stathopulos said. “We’ll play anybody.”

The Warriors certainly received a stiff challenge from the Colts in their rematch on Thursday.

“It was a tight one,” Stathopulos said.

The Colts hit the scoreboard early on taking a 6-0 lead.

“And then our offence responded with a long rushing drive and touchdown of our own,” Stathopulos said.

The Colts then took a 12-6 lead but that was short-lived as Huron Heights marched down the field again, scored a major and hit its convert to enjoy a 13-12 advantage.

By halftime, the Warriors were up 27-20.

Huron Heights then extended its lead to 33-20 when Caleb St. Clair returned Bill Crothers’ second-half kickoff all the way into the Colts’ endzone.

“It was more of a defensive battle after that,” Stathopulos said.

St. Clair continued his red-hot play of late for the Warriors. The Huron Heights running back scored four touchdowns in the contest.

Three of St. Clair’s TDs were via rushing plays. He also scored his fourth major via the aforementioned kickoff return.

St. Clair has now scored a whopping 11 touchdowns in the team’s last three contests.

Luke Mercuri scored the Warriors’ other touchdown. Meanwhile, Ben Ironi was credited with a pair of points when he ran in a two-point convert.

And Marco Liegghio scored a point when he connected on an extra point convert.