THUNDER BAY – The St. Patrick Fighting Saints worked the rulebook to score a narrow one-point win over the Hammarskjold Vikings in their 2023 high school junior football debut.
Quarterback-turned-punter Boston Bortolin booted a 20-yard punt through the end zone in the final minute of play on Thursday afternoon, delivering a 15-14 win that snapped the Saints nine-game regular-season losing streak.
They hadn’t won a game since 2019, when they ran the table on the way to a second straight championship triumph.
Running back Allan Pawdomu, who barreled in from six yards out to score the game’s first major, then added a second on a four-yard scramble midway through the third to put the Saints up 12-7 at the time, said it was a great way to kick off his high school football career.
“That was a very exciting way for us to win,” he said. “I think for a ninth-grader, a freshman, this was a crazy experience for me. The energy here is really nice, I love it.”
The one-point winning kick was the result of a drive that started on the St. Patrick 49-yard-line, after the Saints defence forced a three-and-out possession by a Vikings team that had just marched down the field to tie the game with 4:27 to play, Kain Cristofaro taking it home from five yards out.
It was a good thing Pawdomu wasn’t calling the plays, however.
The rouge was a bit of a foreign concept, he said.
“If I’m being completely honest, I didn’t even understand that,” Pawdomu said.
That’s OK. St. Patrick’s first-year-coach, Matt Madge, was intimately familiar with the way the Canadian game works.
“We got it down there and we thought we were in range for our punter and told him to do what you can, get it in the Fort William Stadium endzone and we got our guys to hustle down and get them in there,” Madge said.
It turns out the coverage team didn’t matter, as Bortolin’s line-drive punt hit the endzone and bounced straight out, securing a one-point lead.
The Vikings, who took a 7-6 lead on Cristafaro’s first touchdown run of the day, a three-yard effort at the end of the second quarter, weren’t finished yet.
Hammarskjold took the ball over at their own 35, and after quarterback Merric Beauparlant threw an incompletion, he connected with receiver Mika Grimm for a 45-yard completion that planted the ball on the St. Patrick 30 and about 30 seconds left to play.
Beauparlant threw up a pair of incompletions, foiled by defensive back Gordon Pawdomu, forcing the Vikings to either try a 37-yard field goal or try to match Bortolin’s go-ahead rouge. The Vikings elected to try the later, but Beauparlant’s kick came up short, the St. Patrick hands team falling out in just outside their goal line.
Pinned deep earlier in the contest, and trailing 12-7, the Vikings elected to kneel in their own end zone for a safety rather than punt the ball away and risk giving St. Patrick a drive that started deep in Hammarskjold territory.
The two teams had an adventurous end to the opening half, both quarterbacks turning the ball over on interceptions on back-to-back plays.
The Saints are 1-0, while the Vikings fell to 1-1 with the defeat.