TORONTO - What little magic was left in Clarke Hinkle Field fell just short Friday night as Toronto left it all on the field but lost, 19-6, against visiting Madonna.
"It was a good game with two teams playing hard," Toronto head coach Eric Meek said. "Madonna has a good and well-coached football team. Our kids came out and settled down defensively. It was a hard hitting game. We moved the ball at times, and then we didn't at times."
The game was tied 6-6 entering the fourth quarter. Clearly, it was a defensive contest from the beginning.
LOOKING FOR ROOM — Madonna’s Elliott Nero runs the ball during the Blue Dons’ 19-6 victory in the last game played at the current Toronto stadium.
-- Mike Mathison
LOOKING FOR ROOM — Toronto’s Ralph King runs the ball while Madonna’s Elliott Nero looks to make a play during the Blue Dons’ 19-6 victory in the last game played at the current Toronto stadium.
-- Mike Mathison
"Our defense played a whale of a game against a pretty good Toronto team," Madonna head coach Doug Taylor said. "Especially when Toronto got into a three-back set and tried to pound the ball. Our guys stood up and played tough against it."
Madonna mustered two field goals through the first two quarters. Toronto managed a mere 27 yards through the first half with only three first downs.
The offenses began to gain some traction after halftime.
Madonna 19, Toronto 6
Madonna 3 3 0 13 - 19
Toronto 0 0 6 0 - 6
M: McCombs field goal
M: McCombs field goal
T: King 26 pass from Chadwick (kick failed)
M: Roe 3 run (McCombs kick)
M: Nero 1 run (Run failed)
RUSHING: Madonna 46-216-2x (Roe 19-136-1, Nero 6-34-1, Hypes 18-34, Comis 3-12); Toronto 23-32 (Mosti 8-23, King 9-20, Marsden 2-8, McGhee 1-1, Chadwick 3-(-20)).
PASSING: Madonna 2-5-10 (Comis 1-3-6, Hypes 1-2-4); Toronto 5-12-49-1 (all by Chadwick).
RECEIVING: Madonna (Roe 1-6, Nero 1-4); Toronto (King 1-26-1, McGhee 2-16, White 1-5, Sninchak 1-2).
FIRST DOWNS: Madonna 13; Toronto 5
PENALTIES-YARDS: Madonna 4-30; Toronto 6-44
FUMBLES-LOST: Madonna 4-2; Toronto 0-0
A punt return finally gave the Red Knights an advantage. Tre Ross received the Madonna offering and returned it 31 yards to the Blue Dons' 26-yard line. It only took one play before the Red Knights found the endzone.
Toronto's quarterback Joey Chadwick, who finished 5-for-12 with 49 yards, faked the handoff and non-chalantly drifted back. Ralph King, who the run fake was initially intended, went straight through the line deep into the secondary. Chadwick lobbed a soft pass into King's awaiting arms for the game's first touchdown at the 5:51 mark in the third quarter. Toronto missed the extra point, which was nearly blocked, and the score was tied 6-6.
Once the score was tied, the pageantry of the evening honoring the last game at Clarke Hinkle Field was in the back of the crowd's mind. Forgotten were the fireworks. Forgotten was the Red Knight on a white stallion leading the team onto the field. Forgotten was the myriad of legends who were honored before the game and during halftime.
"It was a big night for the community," Meek stated. "A lot of people came back. Our kids played hard, I hope the community is proud of them. I'm sad that we didn't get the win to get our seniors out of here on a winning note, but I'm very proud of the kids.
"This is a great community. Our administration is outstanding. We feel our program is heading in the right direction. We're going to keep working. There are good kids here in Toronto. I'm very happy to be their football coach."
Once all of those things fell to the wayside, it was simply Toronto's finest battling tooth-and-nail with a talented and playoff bound Madonna squad. And, the two were not giving each other an inch.
"This was a physical game," Taylor stated. "We knew it was going to be. I told the kids all week that they better make sure their chinstraps were fastened tight, and they had plenty of air in their helmets. Toronto was going to come out here and hit. They proved just that. They are a hard hitting team.
"I have the utmost respect for coach Meek."
Madonna, in particular, was hurt by injuries sustained througout the game due to the physicality. Both the team's starting quarterback and tailback couldn't finish the contest.
Junior Garrett Hypes came in and led the Dons through the second quarter and beyond. Hypes helped spur a stagnant rushing attack.
"We came into the locker room at halftime, and changed up a few things," Taylor mentioned. "At that time, we were only out one ball player (quarterback Ross Comis). We wanted to make sure we were on the same page.
"Once we came out in the second half and seen they made some adjustments to our formations, it reduced what we were able to do. We stayed within the basics of our offense.
"Our kids really stepped up. Garrett Hypes really played a good ball game. It was a good test for him.'
Like Toronto, it was a punt return which finally turned the tables in Madonna's favor. A punt return made by Hypes. The quarterback/returner scampered 29 yards to Toronto's 12-yard line. Two plays later on 3rd-and-1 from Toronto's 3-yard line, Christian Roe bowled through and over three Toronto defenders to find paydirt. A McCombs' extra point gave Madonna a 13-6 advantage.
Toronto was able to maintain a drive after the ensuing kickoff. The Red Knights chewed up nearly 4:30 off the clock before facing a 4th-and-1 at Madonna's 27 yard line. A Ralph King run off right tackle was stuffed by the Blue Dons' defense.
Madonna responded with an 11-play, 73-yard and 4:29 drive which ended in an Eliott Nero 1-yard touchdown plunge. After a failed two-point conversion, the scoring was finalized 19-6.
Madonna (6-3) travels to Clay-Battelle (8-1) Friday as the teams will jockey for playoff position.
"We took this game as a playoff game," Taylor insisted. "We decided our playoffs began here. We had already used our 'get out jail free card' against Wahama. We knew we had to win the last two games. We have some injuries now, and we'll have to plug some guys in positions.
"We'll really have to look at the X's and O's this week to try and find out what we do best with the personnel we have left and go from there."
Meanwhile, Toronto finished its season 6-4. Under the guidance of Meek, it's the team's first winning season in eight years.
"I'm very proud of our 10 seniors," Meek mentioned. "It was just a few years ago when they were freshmen and sophomores that this team was getting blown out. They worked hard and believed in themselves as well as believed in what we were trying to do.
"They brought some pride back to this community."