The Malvern Black Knights hoped to end homecoming on a high note.
North Toronto had other plans.
Spoiling the party, the Norsemen narrowly defeated the Black Knights 14-11 in Tier Two south region football, in front of a raucous Malvern crowd at Birchmount Stadium on a windy Friday afternoon.
Though they ruined the home team’s festivities, doing so was not the focus heading into the game.
“I don’t think it was about spoiling the homecoming for us as much as it was really about coming together as a team and getting a W this early in the season,” said Shawn Hood, North Toronto`s head coach.
“We’re low on numbers this year but the guys have been working really hard, so in order to keep the momentum going and keep their energy high a win was important today.”
Leading the charge for the Norsemen was running back Keenan Crawford, who ran for over 100 yards and a touchdown. Surprisingly, the speedy back wasn’t sure he’d even take to the gridiron this season.
“Keenan was debating whether to play football or not this year and he finally decided to come out about a week and a half ago and [was] unbelievable” said Hood. “He really was the deal breaker for us on offence today and I’m looking forward to see what he’s going to do in the next game.”
Carrying the Black Knights was slot back Carl Suddick, who kicked a field goal and ran for a 60 yard touchdown to put Malvern on top 9-7 mid-way through the third quarter.
Its lead would be short lived though, as Nicolas Giancola returned the ensuing kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown — putting North Toronto ahead for good.
Much of the success the Norsemen found was in their run game.
“You saw the same thing over and over again against our defence, them running the ball outside,” said Doug Underwood, Black Knights head coach. “We couldn’t put a stop to that.”
“I think it’s something we’re going to have to address next week. I don’t know if we have the right personnel on the outside, we might have to make some changes there so we can get a little bit more speed on the outside.”
The Norsemen attributed the holes they found running to the sidelines to the solid interior defence of Malvern along with the weather conditions.
“I give Malvern a lot of credit today, they really shut down the inside run and kind of left us with no other option and given the wind, throwing was difficult today with the cross wind, so we were really fortunate to have that outside run work,” said Hood.
Though the Black Knights still had hope in the waning moments of the game, not being able to produce in front of the home crowd made the loss an even bigger let down.
“They were excited about this, ‘cause it’s been building up all week so this is a big day for them,” said Underwood. “I don’t know if nervousness was an issue in the game, we just didn’t perform when we had to.
“It was a little disappointing to give the home crowd that kind of performance.”
Coming into the day, North Toronto had lost its opening game 29-7, but the result wasn’t as disheartening as the score might suggest.
“Our last game wasn’t a big loss, we didn’t feel that way,” said Hood. “We lost that game on four big plays, we thought [we] moved the ball well on offence, we didn’t finish like we wanted to but today that’s what our goal was, to finish a little stronger.
“The guys felt good after the first loss because we knew there was something to build on.”