The table is set for a lollapolooza of a game Friday at Burnaby Lake West, as the St. Thomas More Knights face their toughest conference rival in a battle for first place.
If they can beat No. 4-ranked Lord Tweedsmuir, the Burnaby squad will lock up first place in the Eastern Conference, earning a bye into the first round of the playoffs.
Coming off a hard-fought 21-7 win over winless Centennial last Friday in Coquitlam, the Knights will need to play with a little more urgency in the beginning and with a bit more discipline.
“Penalties were killing us in the first half (against Centennial),” STM head coach Steve De Lazzari
said. “We came up short on one play and had a touchdown called back to a holding call, then had some other plays where we had some holding calls.
“We can’t play like that against Tweedsmuir because they’re a strong opponent.”
The first place showdown between No. 4 ranked Tweedsmuir and No. 5 STM kicks off at 7:30 p.m.
The STM coaches warned the players not to look past the Centaurs because of their 0-5 record, but when human nature takes over, you have to adapt.
Thankfully, senior Rickey Parsons caught fire – and the ball – to lead a third-quarter turnaround.
The six-foot-one safety snared a Centennial pass at the 28-yard line and returned it for the game’s first touchdown, just 1:30 into the third quarter.
Two possessions later, the STM wideout caught quarterback Anthony De Lazzari’s 32-yard pass in the end zone to make it 14-0. Parsons capped the quarter by grabbing his second pick-six of the night, this time scampering 32 yards for the score.
“It was just a good call by the coach,” said Parsons of the first interception. “Their quarterback was just staring at the receiver, and it was a good read. I just had to step up, the whole team stepped up to win the game.”
He now has six interceptions on the season, four going for majors.
Although they didn’t put up any points, the Knights threatened in the first 24 minutes.
They got it inside the 10-yard line but were stopped at the two, then saw Nick Osho scamper in for six points, only to have the play called back for holding.
Parsons said some lapses held the team back, but the team dealt with it.
“We just came out flat. It was unacceptable. We cleaned some things up at halftime and came out stronger. You can’t underestimate your opponents.”
Coach De Lazzari was happy how they responded, and noted how it was purposely left to the players when everyone filed into the dressing room after the scoreless first half.
“We actually didn’t (say anything). That was a message in and of itself. When the coaches go and say, there’s nothing for us to say, you’ve got to figure it out,” he said. “The players took ownership of it and came out stronger in the second half,” he said.
Osho finished with 125 yards on 15 carries, while quarterback Anthony De Lazzari completed seven of 14 pass attempts for 80 yards. Alex Cordeiro led the defence with eight tackles, while Jack Wagner and Parsons chalked up five apiece.
As a two-way player, Parsons has a good feel for this year’s Knights team. He likes what they’ve accomplished, but believes the true test has yet to come.
“I think we could be a lot better still. We still have some things to clean up, but we can be a contender for sure,” said Parsons.
“I feel we just have a mentality on defence, were we’re hardnosed and play physical. The offence is getting there too. We’re starting to get it together offensively and be a well-rounded team.”