Bears receiver Max Gargaro leaps for a catch over the Thistletown defence

Martingrove football still on track despite 1st loss

Aggressive Thistletown defence forced the Bears into crucial turnovers

It’s still early in the high school football season but the Martingrove Bears aren’t going to let one loss get in the way of their championship aspirations.

On Thursday, the Bears dropped an 18-13 contest to Thistletown Collegiate Black Scots in a tightly contested and often sloppy affair.

With swirling winds at the Martingrove field, both teams relied heavily on their running games. Thistletown, however, was able to take advantage with its defence.

“We had a few offensive mistakes,” receiver Max Gargaro told the Toronto Observer after the game. “The running backs were making some mistakes, and we just weren’t executing on offence and that was probably the key.”

Head coach Greg Saylor believes the Bears can take away some positives from the loss.

“I liked that even though we were down throughout the game our guys played the entire game, played hard [and] nobody hung their heads,” said Saylor.

“There were a lot of individual performances that were excellent, things that we can build on. The mistakes we made were obvious and fixable so they’re things we can go forward and fix and make sure we don’t repeat for games in the future.”

Added Gargaro: “On defence I thought we played well. We shut them down, and got some turnovers, but they got some big runs on us and a few big throws.”

One of the few big throws for the Bears came just before the halftime as Gargaro provided a highlight-reel catch.

When forced to run, Martingrove was stifled by an aggressive Black Scots’ defence.

“On offence, it just shows that when you’re playing better teams things are different – you’ve got to run harder, you’ve got to block harder and you’ve got to stay focused all game,” said Gargaro.

Overall, the junior believes the team is moving in the right direction.

“It’s looking good. I’m in Grade 11 and have been on the team since Grade 9 and it’s the best team I’ve played on, so absolutely I’m looking to go 3-0 the rest of the season and make the playoffs, then we have a shot to win the championship.”

Saylor shares a similar optimism.

“I think that we’re capable of playing with anybody and that if we execute properly we can play with any of the teams in our league and I think the kids should be able to hold their heads high that we played well,” said the head coach.

“It’s still very early in the season.”

In the Martingrove team huddle after the game, the talk was about focus, with one of the more vocal players shouting, “This isn’t practice, this isn’t gym class, we’ve got to stay focused.”

With the loss, the Bears are now 1-1 this season after defeating Westview 35-6 in their first game, while Thistletown continues to look strong at 2-0.