When it comes to success in Ontario high school football, not many programs have been as dominant in the past two decades as the Frontenac Falcons.
Last Wednesday, the school from Kingston picked up its second consecutive provincial title at the Ontario Federation of School Athletics Association (OFSAA) Eastern Bowl, marking the team’s eighth championship since 2001.
On Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022, the Falcons were in Guelph to face the Belle River Nobels in the OFSAA Eastern Bowl, one of nine provincial football championships held throughout the week. The game was a close contest between the two teams, however, by the end of the first half, Bell River had opened up a 9-1 lead, thanks in part to some early misses by Frontenac.
“At the start of the game, [we went] back and forth, both teams moved the ball with not much success. But we traded single points early so it was 1-1, and then they got another single on a missed field goal… And then, just shortly before the half, they managed to score on a long touchdown run, so we went into the half down 9-1,” said Frontenac Head Coach Mike Doyle.
Heading into the locker room with more than a touchdown separating the two teams, Coach Doyle noted the tension was high amongst his players. “We were a little worried going into the half because we [didn’t have] a ton of success moving the ball [in the first two quarters].”
Frontenac would not let a tough first half get them down, as the team returned in the third quarter with an important choice to make. “We chose to receive the ball and they chose to have the wind in the fourth quarter, which worked out pretty well for us,” remarked Doyle. “We took the ball on the opening possession, our quarterback, Jet Zakrewski, completed a nice little pass to Jordan Buick, and Jordan scampered for 45 to 50 yards down the sideline to set up our first score.”
After putting seven points on the board to start the second half, the Falcons would then have to defend against a strong Belle River offence. But, thanks in part to a powerful tackle by Thomas Nitschke, the Nobels would fumble the ball, allowing Frontenac to recover and set up for another touchdown.
Despite a valiant effort from Belle River in the fourth quarter, Frontenac would go on to take the win 15-9, claiming its second consecutive Eastern Bowl title. “There was definitely excitement, but it was tense, [so] there was definitely some relief from the kids [because] we held on,” Doyle said.
Wednesday’s victory not only marked the second straight Eastern Bowl title for Frontenac, but the win also represented the school’s seventh provincial title since winning the National Capital Bowl in 2001, making the Falcons one of the most successful high school football programs in Ontario. However, despite building a solid winning tradition at the school, Doyle noted the team doesn’t necessarily map out an OFSAA title at the start of the season.
“We really focus on our local league. We talk a lot to the kids about weekly improvement, and I think that’s always what our focus as a coaching staff is; not getting too far ahead of ourselves,” Doyle said, notintg that the cancellation of the entire 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic forced the team to rethink some of its priorities last year, a change the Falcons stuck with for its 2022 campaign.
“We thought that each game last year could be our last, [because] the school could be shut down, or whatever. I think that mentality kind of came forward this year; let’s just play one game at a time, not talking too much about the end, but [thinking] about the small steps in between,” he shared.
With a mindset of focusing on each individual challenge as it came forward, the Falcons were able to put together a dominant regular season, winning all six games, often by double-digit margins. In the playoffs, the Falcons beat Sydenham High School 42-14 in the Kingston Area Secondary Schools Athletic Association (KASSAA) semi-finals, before downing the Holy Cross Crusaders 32-27 at Richardson Stadium in the KASSAA championship game.
“Kingston football is good football. We obviously love getting to the all-Ontario games, but teams getting out of Kingston play some tough football and you play against some high-quality teams,” Doyle said of the depth in the KASSAA conference.
As for what makes Frontenac one of the best programs in Kingston, if not all of Ontario, the Head Coach attributed a lot of the team’s success to the work ethic of its players.
“They’re willing to look at the details, and they’re willing to put in the time and train. We have a number of kids who spend a lot of time in the weight room in the offseason, we have kids that play Junior Gaels football, and a number of them are real students of the game… So, to me, it’s no secret: They show up and they put their cleats and their helmets on, and they go to work every day.”
With last Wednesday’s victory marking the end of the 2022 high school football season, it meant that Doyle and his fellow coaching staff had to say goodbye to the players graduating at the end of the current school year, some of whom will hopefully be playing at the university level come next fall.
“We’re all football fans, and we love the opportunity to go see kids play at the next level and establish themselves as good university players. We’re excited that there’s a number of kids making that transition this year… And then there are kids [who] are not going to play football again. They’ve just been great contributors to our program too,” said Doyle.
“So, it’s sad to see them go, but we’re also excited for the next stage of their lives.”