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Lions hope to win 1st District 10 high school football title

Lions get ready in the huddle. St.James Lions Football Twitter/ @STJAMESLIONSFB

The District 10 high school football title will be awarded Friday night when the St. James Lions and the Centennial Spartans meet in the championship game at the University of Guelph.

The title game pits the two best teams in the regular season in the district:  the Lions were 5-0 and the Spartans were 4-1.

What adds additional interest to this game is also the hope of St. James attempting to win their first district title, being the only school that hasn’t won a local championship.

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For years, the title has eluded the Lions, even in their best years including 2016 when the Lions also finished the season 5-0 only to go on to lose the title game to Guelph CVI which won their eighth title that year.

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“We’ve been talking about this over the last couple of years,” head coach Jeff Cummings said. “We’ve gone to a lot of championships in our time, and this year … we’ve preached a very different mental focus of calm, but also a little release of leadership to players. We’ve asked players to have stronger voices, we’ve engaged them to talk to them more about things we should be doing philosophically.”

When it comes to 2016 and how close the Lions got to finally ending the drought, Cummings says there are still some players on the roster from that game. He says they’re ready to finally bring home the elusive title.

“We do have quite a few that are back (Grade 12 and 12+) who have come back for this sole explicit reason to get this championship and I think the experience of the last couple of years with them has left them raw. They want to go out saying we took District 10 and we brought St. James their first championship ever.”

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The John F. Ross Royals lead the pack with 20 local football titles, while the GCVI Gaels follow with nine.

Our Lady of Lourdes Crusaders and Centennial Spartans are tied for third with seven and the Bishop McDonnell Celtics have six to their name, although they haven’t brought home a title since 1987.

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Norwell, a school that was once under the District 10 umbrella from Palmerston, Ont., won it once in 1975.

That leaves the St. James Lions as the only team with that hasn’t won.

Cummings isn’t taking the Spartans lightly even though the Lions handed them their only loss of the season.

“We don’t take them for granted at all, that game could have went either way. We looked at them as they were the best team in the league and we had to knock them off,” said Cummings.

St. James took that Oct. 12. matchup by a score of 41-27.

“The coaching is their threat, they’ve got great coaching. Their offensive co-ordinator likes to push the ball with an aggressive passing game and he’s got a quarterback that can be creative and can beat you on his own. [He’s] the best coach in the league, I think he’s an outstanding head coach and I think he’s going to be very prepared for us,” Cumming said. “We’re going to approach them the same way that we approached them the first time.”

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The title winner then advances to compete in the CWOSSA (Central Western Ontario Secondary Schools Association) title game, and if victorious in that contest advance to OFSSA (Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations) championship.

John F. Ross has been crowned CWOSSA champions four times since 2000, while Guelph CVI took the crown in 2006 and would go on to lose in the OFSSA title game to the St. Thomas Aquinas Spartans from London, Ont., inside the Rogers Centre.

The District 10 title game goes Friday at 7 p.m. at the University of Guelph’s Alumni Stadium.

 

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