By Darryl G. Smart
When the Delhi Raiders and Holy Trinity Titans hit the field on Friday afternoon, it really didn’t matter the result. Despite the obvious first-game nerves and anticipation, everyone playing in the first-ever Athletic Association of Brant Haldimand Norfolk football game was just happy to be playing a game they all love.
“It feels really good to be back,” Raiders’ Clifford Taylor said after his team edged out the Titans 15-14. “I’m really happy to make the best out of this year because it’s my last year. I couldn’t sleep for two weeks because I was so excited. When they told us we’re playing football it was just a great feeling. It was a relief.”
That was a shared sentiment from almost every player.
“I was so pumped. I was dying to get out here. I love this sport,” Titans’ Taye Lovell said. “I can’t say my exact words but all i can say is i haven’t been that happy in a long time when they said there was football.”
During the opening half, the rust being shaken off was obvious. The opening point of the season came late in the second quarter after a failed field goal attempt that was booted deep in the end zone for a rouge, giving the Raiders a 1-0.
When the second half kicked off, both teams got into a groove after some adjustments and the fans that were just as happy to be watching the game were treated to some great football.
Lovell scored the first touchdown of the game with 31 seconds remaining in the third quarter, thanks to a three-yard rush. That touchdown was set up by Lovell’s 55-yard punt return to get the Titans into the red zone.
The Raiders battled back when Adam Leatherland picked up a punt on his own one-yeard line and ran it all the way down for his team’s first major of the season to tie things up.
The Titans also showed that they could bounce back after picking off a Raiders pass attempt to set up Lovell’s second rushing touchdown of the game. This time he ran in from six-yards out. And thanks to another convert, the Titans held a seven-point lead with three minutes to go, setting up for a dramatic finish.
Leatherland, at quarterback, hit Ty DeJonghe, who went all the way to the house for a 55-yard pass and run to put the Raiders within one. Leatherland then passed the ball to Tre Hodder for the two-point convert to win the game.
“It was a great game. We all fought our hardest,” Nathan Dobbie said. “I’m really glad everyone came out and played their best. You have to really give credit to Trinity. They have a good team over there.”
Leatherland said it was a great team win, and the mix of older players and younger ones have really come together.
“It’s that cycle. Everyone was in Grade 9 and had to learn from the older guys,” Leatherland said. “Sometimes it’s tough to watch as the older guys led the way. But now it’s our time to do that. We were all ready to go. We know we missed out Grade 12 year and we wanted to be back here for this in our fifth year. We want to win a championship and win the right way.”
PJC v SCS
In the other AABHN Non CWOSSA league game, the Pauline Johnson Thunderbirds came to Norfolk for the first time and played the Simcoe Sabres to a 0-0 tie.
“First double goose egg I’ve ever been a part of as a coach or a player,” Thunderbirds coach John Macdonald said.
On Friday, the Titans will visit the Waterford Wolves, while the Raiders will take on teh Simcoe Sabres. Both games are at 2pm.