Niagara Storm off to a Rough Start at Season Opener

James Ryan

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“How you gonna write about this James?” asked Niagara Storm President, Frank Trivieri.

All I could do was shake my head. I’m not a spin-doctor, and the truth was almost too much to comprehend after such a long and emotional day. Two days later, and it’s still hard to put the entire day into a perspective that won’t sound like we’re making excuses for ourselves or for our players. The reality is that at every level, we either got beat, or we beat ourselves. And that’s the part of football that stings the most.

So here’s the truth, as I see it, from all five home-openers…

HWMFA Atom (ages 9-10): Head Coach Kent Risko
Final Score: Black Hurricanes 26, Niagara Storm 12

Myself and Varsity Head Coach Brian B.J. Malott were both acting as the referees for this game (and the next), and from my perspective, both teams were pretty evenly matched in what was an entertaining, back and fourth affair. I believe the game was all tied up at the half, but the youngest Storm team ran into a bit of penalty trouble late in the game that ultimately cost them the win. Overall, I would say that both teams played very well.

HWMFA Pee Wee (ages 11-12): Head Coach Nick Pellegrino
Final Score: Niagara Storm 34, Blue Hurricanes 0

I mentioned up top that every team either “got beat, or beat themselves.” Despite the huge margin of victory here, the Storm Pee Wee definitely beat themselves at the end of this game. Number 30 for the Storm played incredibly well. He dominated with his speed, scoring a few touchdowns, and really took control on the defense. It was a real pleasure to watch him play. Unfortunately, the game ended abruptly after a Hamilton player was punched by a Storm player, which then sparked a confrontation between one boy’s parent and a coach. It was one of those sad cases where everyone was in the wrong. Otherwise, the players should all be proud of themselves. It was a fun game to watch up until the end.

Read: Emotions run high in the Sport of Youth Football

OFC Bantam (ages 13-14): Head Coach Marcus Stake
Final Score: Forest City Thunderbirds 46, Niagara Storm 7

It doesn’t help the mentality of a team when their starting running back is told by the referees that he’s not allowed to play because his cleats are a half-inch too long. Luckily, his mother ran out to buy him new cleats, so that he could at least play in a part of the game. Unfortunately, the Storm were fighting uphill right from the start and momentum never managed to swing back in their favour.

“I thought that we learned a lot from the game,” said Head Coach Marcus Stake. “It was a valuable learning experience for us. We will continue to grow and get better every week. We know what we need to work on and that will be the focus this week in practice.”

OFC Junior Varsity (ages 15-16): Head Coach Dave Richardson
Final Score: Forest City Thunderbirds 30, Niagara Storm 0

The Storm failed to capitalize early on to take the lead in this game, but at least the defense managed to keep the game close at the half. Unfortunately, with no real offensive momentum, the defense was forced to play for about 80-percent of the game, and by the 4th quarter, there just wasn’t any more gas in the tank. The game was called with about four minutes left in the 4th quarter due to an injury on the field. Storm DT Anthony Gaio was knocked unconscious and was taken away by ambulance in what was easily the scariest moment in my entire coaching career. At that point in time, I couldn’t have cared less about the score of the game. Luckily, Anthony is back home now and is apparently doing okay.

“Mistakes, missed opportunities, and nervous kids,” said Head Coach Dave Richardson, as he summed up his team’s biggest issues. “I thought the defense played great, but were left on the field way too much. We don’t have the depth to run the kind of offense that we want to run, so we’re going to make a few changes. A few key players on both sides of the ball had nothing left in the tank and were ineffective on offense, where we were a little challenged skill-wise. We gave up field position three times on the return by not handling the ball, and that’s on me for not getting the players better prepared. When you can’t get a first down and you’re starting on your own 10-yard line, it’s tough to win games.”

OFC Varsity (ages 17-19): Head Coach Brian B.J. Malott
Final Score: Forest City Thunderbirds 33, Niagara Storm 0

The good news is that a lot more players showed up for the game than they do for practices. The bad news should be obvious – not enough players are showing up for practices to give this team any real chance at winning. Great athletes! Great coaches! But no amount of success can happen without teamwork. Then again, that’s just my personal observation.

“My guys gave 100-percent, every play,” stated Head Coach Brian B.J. Malott. “They were physical and made the other guys work for the win. Looking forward to prepping for our next opponent. It only gets better from here.”

Very true. And I will say this…despite what the scoreboard said, the Varsity Storm didn’t quit the entire time, and they definitely played hard. I agree with Coach Malott; it only gets better from here. They certainly have the athletes to make it happen.

Read: Teamwork: The System and the carrying out of that System

@coachjamesryan

James Ryan
James Ryan

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