Jaiden Hyland put on a show Friday afternoon in his final regular season game as a Northern Red Knight.
The senior running back ran for over 125 yards and four touchdowns as his Red Knights (4-1) handed the Birchmount Park Panthers (3-1-1) their first loss of the season in a 40-0 blow out at Clarke Pulford Field.
Northern clinched first place in the top tier of TDSSAA senior football with the win, something head coach Dan Domenico is attributing to Hyland and the rest of his leaders’ recent performance.
“Before (the last two weeks), nobody was taking any leadership and now we’re making big plays, we’re having people step up,” said Domenico, following his team’s fourth win this season. “Jaiden certainly had some incentive today being a senior and he ran very well.
“The higher tide is raising all the boats.”
Cornerback Jason Richards led the way on the defensive side for Northern with a pair of interceptions and an impressive set of shifty returns. The speedy defensive back was rewarded with a post-game interview from a local television crew that plastered a smile across his sweaty face.
Domenico was impressed with the turnovers and says the recent defensive production is a matter of experience for his young men.
“We started off (this season) really ragged,” said Domenico. “The last two weeks, all of a sudden, it’s started clicking a little bit, players are starting to get it.
“They’re out there reacting rather than thinking.”
Domenico has preached consistency this year and one decision from the coaching staff helped with that in Friday’s win.
“For the first time this season I played the same set of offensive linemen two weeks in a row and now they know they’re going to be there,” said Domenico. “We stopped switching people around and we’ve sort of figured out what our best combination is.
“We have some consistency and it’s showing on the field too.”
The Red Knights also got points from tight end Matthew Howell on a five-yard pass from Teshaun Tran and a 36-yard field goal by placekicker Tayjon Campbell.
— Mitch Sanderson (@Mitch_Sanderson) October 2, 2015
For Birchmount Park, the injury bug has been rabid amongst the roster, but head coach Rob Pakkas isn’t using that to absolve his team of the embarrassing loss.
“No excuses,” said Pakkas. “(The loss) wasn’t because of the injuries. We had some grade nines and 10s in pretty key positions today against one of the better teams in Toronto, that’s kind of tough, but it’s no excuse.”
Pakkas’ team is still in good shape to have a first round bye and a home playoff game in two weeks and he’s optimistic going forward.
“If there’s a good time for a loss, that’s the time,” said Pakkas. “Now they can go back to practice and work extra hard. They know now that if we’re going to compete with the best, we’ve got to get a little bit better.”
One bright spot for the Panthers was kick returner and slotback Josh Chanderbhan-Ally who had a handful of highlight reel catches and displayed lightning quick speed with the ball in his hands.
Both teams will have a bye next week while they await the results of the first round and, like any football team, they’re looking forward to giving players a chance to get healthy as they get ready for a run to the Metro Bowl, Dec. 1 at Tim Horton’s Field in Hamilton.