By: Mike Still (@mikestill94)
Feature photo: St. John’s Tigers head coach Grant McMIllan lays down the jersey of Jordan Thomas (#7) for the team’s championship photo. The former high school pivot was slain in December of 2017.
The St. John’s Tigers had Jordan Thomas on their mind when they went into battle with the Elmwood Giants for division 3 supremacy at Investors Group Field tonight.
The former QB, who helped lead the Tigers to their last championship game two years ago, was murdered during his senior year in December of 2017. The team played in his honour tonight, winning a hard-fought 13-10 contest in the snow for their first title since 1980. After the game, St. John’s head coach Grant McMillan laid down the former three-sport star’s jersey (#7) in front of the CanadInns trophy for the squad’s photo.
“It was about honouring him and the players who have come before us,” McMillan said in an emotional postgame interview. “This victory is bigger than the team and bigger than the school. It’s a celebration for our community.”
The Tigers knew exactly what they needed to do to win the contest over the 6-1 Elmwood Giants, who handed them their only loss in the regular season: stop Evyn Melville-Toth.
The punishing tailback broke the division 3 record this year with 17 touchdowns, four of which came in the two team’s regular season matchup in week two. But on Thursday night, he was contained, as St. John’s stacked the box and won the battle at the line of scrimmage.
The Tigers set the tone early, scoring on their first possession of the game thanks to some big passing plays from pivot Myles Kakewash. The drive was capped by an Asher Wood touchdown on a screen pass.
After multiple turnovers on both sides, the Giants were able to tie the game up early in the second quarter, as Melville-Both finished off a run-heavy drive. But St. John’s kept their composure, re-taking the lead before the half on a 17-yard field goal from Wood that was set up by a fake punt.
Elmwood would re-tie the game with a field goal, thanks to a fumble recovery by Edward Kisimba and an unnecessary roughness penalty on the Tigers that would have otherwise stopped the drive.
From then on, it was a fight to the finish, as both sides registered massive interceptions. The Tigers would get the last laugh however, taking the lead on a 30-yard field goal from Wood that was set up by a Trent Raven pick. The Giants would have two cracks in the final minute to tie the game, however Wood shut down both drives with an interception and a pass breakup and was named Player of the Game.
The rangy 6’3″ receiver/defensive back/kicker was quick to mention Thomas postgame, echoing his coach’s remarks.
“I was in the finals in grade ten, and [Thomas] was the quarterback,” he said. “To win this, I feel like we’re really honouring him and it feels really great.”