The St. Matthew Tigers rise from the basement to the penthouse was completed on Wednesday with a 20-13 win over the St. Joseph Jaguars in the Tier 1 city championship game.
It was just a year ago that the Tigers limped to a 1-3 record in a truncated season that saw them forfeit two games when injuries left them with too few players to finish the contest.
This year's turnaround started on Sept. 22 with a 46-0 win over the St. Peter Knights. What followed was six wins and a tie against the Ashbury Colts which they avenged in the semi-finals.
The Jaguars topped the west division with a perfect 6-0 record, including a 17-3 win over the St. Peter Knights in their semi-final.
Wednesday's championship game was played on a snow-covered field at Carleon University, making the traction tricky at best. But that didn't stop St. Matt's running back Hugo Djeumeni from racking up 109 yards on 15 carries in the first half alone.
The Jaguars' defence was fed a steady diet of Djeumeni resulting in seven first downs, three touchdowns and a 20-6 lead by the end of the first half
The Tigers first touchdown came on a 10-yard run up the middle by quarterback Jackson Plante on their first series of the game that was set up by a 41-yard punt return by Djeumeni.
The second touchdown was scored on a 50-yard pass up the middle from Plante to Jahim Kabongo who managed to get behind two defenders. The play was set up be five straight runs by Djeumeni covering 40 yards.
The Jaguars answered back with their first major score of the game whch came on a spectacular 46-yard run by #24 who broke three tackles on his way to the end zone.
Plante and Kabongo would hook up again on the Tigers' third touchdown, this time on a 61-yard pass that was set up by 29-yard run by Djeumeni. A two-point conversion throw from Plante to Christos Zigoumis made the score 20-6.
What looked like a comfortable lead at the half-time break, slowly evaporated in the third quarter as the Jaguar's defence stiffened and prevented the Tigers from building any momentum.
St. Joseph meanwhile threatened to score on their opening series of the half before Cole Hamilton broke up a sure touchdown pass in the end zone to keep the score at
The Jaguars would eventually score on a pair of runs by #24 to narrow the Tigers' lead to a converted touchdown.
A key moment in the game came two series later when #24 suffered a head injury and had to be taken out of the game, removing the Jaguars' main offensive threat for the rest of the contest.
St. Joseph would get one more chance to tie the game late in the fourth quarter but their drive stalled on the Tigers 11-yard line when St. Matt's stuffed a third and three attempt. From there the Tigers were able to put a long series together assisted by several penalties against the Jaguars.
A pair of first downs on their last series of the game allowed the Tigers to run out the clock and claim their first Tier 1 football championship since the school won back-to-back titles in 2016 and 2017.
Djeumeni finishd the game with 122 yards rushing on 21 carries and two catches for nine yards.
Plante was 11-for-18 for 178 yards and two touchdowns. His favourite target was Kabongo who hauled in four catches for 128 yards and two touchdowns. The St. Matt's quarterback also ran the ball six times for 46 yards and a touchdown.
Cole Hamilton, Christo Zigoumis, William Savard, John Byrne and Seyiram Soga also got in on the action with a catch each and Antonio Bonhomme made a key interception in the first half.
St. Matt's had 352 yards in total offence compared to 204 yards for St. Joseph. The tigers also had more first downs in the game – 12 to 6.