Updated: Sep 19, 2018
Despite their relative size, the Saint Thomas More Collegiate Knights have managed to always punched above their weight in football. They are one of the most consistent programs in AAA football, constantly getting into the playoffs and producing tons of players who go off into the university ranks.
Last year was no exception. STM had the top ranked defence throughout the season, and were poised to make it to the Subway Bowl final. Unfortunately they fell to the Terry Fox Ravens in the semi final dashing their dreams of adding another provincial banner.
“That was not our goal” said starting quarterback Dario Ciccone on their semi-final finish. “We wanted to make it to the finals but that was a very good season [still].”
“[We] had a lot of injuries we had to deal with” explained reigning Defensive Player of the Year Sam Steele. “We had a great team, a great lineup, it's just some unfortunate events caused us of not be able to make it all the way.”
Throughout last season the team and the entire STM community were playing with heavy hearts, as longtime teacher and head coach Bernie Kully passed away after a battle with cancer. The team wore ‘BK’ on their jerseys and helmets afterwards, and will continue to do that permanently.
“He is a fixture and he is part of the community” explained head coach Joe Adams on the impact Kully had. “He is emblematic of what it is — hard working, never complaining, stoic, and passionate. He lived for these kids and lived for this football program. He is part of the fabric of STM. When you say what does he mean to the program, in many ways he is the symbol of our program.
The contributions he’s made and what he’s meant to the program, that’s something no one will ever forget. That will be a part of this culture forever.”
Part of the culture at STM is the way the practices and team meetings are conducted. There’s is not any negative yelling or screaming that one sees in the various football documentaries out there like Last Chance U. Instead, it’s all about positive reinforcement.
“We have two speeds, we have teaching speed and we have game speed” explained Adams. “If it’s teaching speed like you saw today, we’re learning. You would never scream at a kid in the classroom, ever, it’s not appropriate. [. . .] Coaching is teaching and teaching is coaching. So the approach that we take is — and all the coaches are of the same mind — we’re out here learning, we’re out here teaching. Making things personal, yelling and screaming, that’s just not the game anymore.
One of my mentors use to say, we use to walk on our knuckles. We’ve evolved, football has to evolve a bit too.”
This year the offence will be led by the partnership of quarterback Dario Ciccone and wide receiver Michael Simone. They’ve been playing football with each other since the fourth grade, and their chemistry shines bright on the field.
“They are the hive mind” said Adams on the pair. “They think alike, they work together, they’re going to be a very effective duo. [They’re] great leaders.”
“It’s great to have two kids who have known each other their whole lives to come together on the field because their chemistry is great” said Steele. “Especially if they have a great mindset and applying to the kids who know each other and great buds, you have a destructive team and you can win things.”
Defensively, Sam Steele will once again be expected to rack up the tackles. It will be tough for the defence to achieve their extremely high (or low in this case) numbers they had last year, but nevertheless will still be a tough group to get through.
“I think we’re coming into this season very much like last year” said head coach Steve De Lazarri on his team’s expectations heading into the new campaign. “I think people are looking at us as an underdog just like last year. Last year no one had us ranked in the top five and we ended up in the semi final ranked second. I don’t know if we will end up in the same circumstance as last year but I think we’ll be the underdog that people don’t see coming. We got a lot of balance in the sense of what we can do.”
The game that the players are looking forward to? Well that would be against Terry Fox, the team that knocked them out last year.
“I want to play them at sometime” said Steele. “I don’t care where it is I just want to play against them again.”
“I think we’re ready for the players they have this year” Ciccone elaborated. “I want to beat them because they beat us last year.”
It’s a big challenge but through whatever adversity thrown at them, the STM Knights have always rose to the occasion.
Written by: Nick Bondi