Barrie high school’s boys and girls teams win provincial crowns
The Barrie Central girls rugby team ran their way to a gold medal at the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations (OFSAA) provincial high school tournament in Waterloo on Wednesday. SUBMITTED
Winning a gold medal at OFSAA is the statement that your school is the best in the province at that sport.
That would mean that the Barrie Central Phoenix have the best rugby program in Ontario – for both the guys and the girls.
Barrie Central pulled off a rare feat this week, winning OFSAA title in girls and boys rugby, and the double gold what is believed to be a first in the school’s history.
“I’m not sure, but I don’t have knowledge of any school having done that before,” said Phoenix senior boys assistant coach Steve Porter. “It’s pretty rare.”
It was the ladies that had the first crack at it, beginning play in Waterloo earlier this week.
Despite being ranked fourth, Barrie Central did not win a game by less than 22 points, although that didn’t mean it was easy.
“It wasn’t comfortable, and scores are always deceiving,” said Phoenix girls coach Brad Chestnut. “There’s a point in the game where the other team is going to come back, or you’ll break them.”
The Phoenix wound up a difficult situation in the final against Centennial, when captain Emily Belchos picked up a yellow card and was sent to the sin bin.
“We were a man short, up 12-0 at the time,” Chestnut said. “We gave up a converted try during that time, but that was it.
“The girls defended and defended until she came back on the field.”
That helped Barrie Central turn the tide.
“In the second half, we slowly broke them down,” Chestnut said. “We found some holes, took advantage of some of their weaknesses, and some of our best players stepped up.
“Our seniors played a remarkable game,” added Chestnut, noting the effort of Emma Chown, Belchos, Chanel Frangakis and Katherine Shirriff, amongst others.
A 29-7 victory gave the ‘AA’ school the ‘AAA’/’AAAA’ title, and Chestnut gives the coaching credit to just about everyone other than himself.
“I would love to say it’s me, but that would be a bold-faced lie,” Chestnut said. “Our success is based on the fact that we have a very close affiliation with the boys team, and their coaches are a resource for us and they have all helped us during the year.”
They also had some workouts with Jessica Belchos, Emily’s older sister, who still plays at a very high level.
“Having an elite international player come out and run training sessions for you is a big advantage,” Chestnut said.
Chestnut even got help from former girls coach Tim Lem, who won 18 consecutive Georgian Bay Secondary School Association championships before his retirement.
“He always showed up during the games, gave me advice, told us what the other teams did and their tendencies, and that helps,” Chestnut said. “When you’re stepping to fill his shoes, it’s tough.
“He ran a tremendous program and gave me the honour and pressure of taking over.”
While the girls program looked to some previous shining lights to help guide their success, the Central senior boys team only had to look to last season to figure out its motivation.
“We lost that heartbreaker in the (OFSAA) semifinals last year and all of the guys that were coming back, they bonded together and said that there’s no way they were going to go through it again,” Porter said.
That meant they were working hard, through thick and thin and even the threat of not having a season.
“The seniors (assured) the rest of them that (the political concerns) would be OK, so they didn’t even skip a beat,” Porter said. “When the season started, we hit the ground running because the kids did their work.”
That carried them to the finals, where they faced a sizeable opponent in Moira.
“This team was freakin’ huge,” Porter said. “They outweighed us by 20, 30, 40 pounds at every position.
“But, as (head coach) Ron (Andrews) says, it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.”
A confident Phoenix squad used its superior conditioning to start to wear down the opponent before getting on the board in the opening half.
“The score came off of a fantastic play by Alex Charest-Pekeski, our fly half, on a great ball to Patrick Berardi,” Porter said. “(Berardi) took it hard and ran over two guys in the process (to get the try).”
Keaton Porter converted the kick to give Barrie Central a 7-0 lead at the half, but they would have to defend in the second.
“They pressed us early in that half and got down to our goal line, but we had a good defensive stand,” Porter said.
“We cleared the ranks and we played the final five minutes of the game in their half of the field,” Porter added.
And after the final whistle blew on a 7-0 win, Barrie Central had accomplished something special and rare – OFSAA gold for both the girls and the boys.
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about senior girls, senior boys or even junior boys,” Porter said. “Rugby is a religion is our school.”