Sports High School Sports

Panthers look to repeat; defeat St. Joan of Arc in battle of Barrie schools

By Stephen Sweet, Special to Postmedia Network

Sam Broadhead of the St. Peter's Panthers flies through the St. Joan of Arc Knights defense during senior girls flag football action on Tuesday at St. Peter's Catholic Secondary School in Barrie. The Knights would take the win, 19-6. MARK WANZEL/PHOTO

Sam Broadhead of the St. Peter's Panthers flies through the St. Joan of Arc Knights defense during senior girls flag football action on Tuesday at St. Peter's Catholic Secondary School in Barrie. The Knights would take the win, 19-6. MARK WANZEL/PHOTO

The St. Peter’s Panthers have a tall order on their hands in order to retain their title.

So far, they haven’t missed a beat.

The senior girls flag football team remained undefeated on the year, defeating the St. Joan of Arc Knights 19-6 at home on Tuesday.

“JOA’s one of those schools that we really want to beat,” said Panthers defensive back Sarah Svistunenko. “We have a big rivalry against them, in this and hockey and other stuff.”

This win adds to the list for the defending champs, who won both the Catholic board and Georgian Bay Secondary School Association crown last year, earning the latter in a dramatic, triple-overtime victory.

“We lost some of our players from last year, but we’ve been working hard on it and we really want to back to GB’s for Round 2,” said Sam Broadhead of the Panthers.

Broadhead and Rebecca Pearce have been splitting time under centre this season, taking over from long-time starter Santana Ferreira, who graduated in June.

“Rebecca and I are quarterback this year, which is big shoes to fill from Santana,” Broadhead said. “She’s been there for years and we’re just trying to work hard to fill those, but they are big shoes to fill.”

Both Broadhead and Svistunenko have expanded roles this season with many of the veterans having moved on.

“Last year, we didn’t play a lot, so we sat on the sidelines and learned from the Grade 12’s,” Svistunenko said. “We were able to take that into this year.”

The bulk of the scoring in Tuesday’s game came in the first half, with St. Peter’s opening things up with a punt single on their first drive.

St. Joan of Arc came back the other way, as quarterback Hannah Tourigny kept the ball on a third-down play at midfield and went the distance, giving the Knights a lead.

It would be short-lived, as Broadhead got to work finding her receivers.

First, she connected with Kayla Cormier for a long first-down conversion, moving the ball into the St. Joan of Arc half.

Once the Panthers reached the red zone, Broadhead rolled out to her left and found Brianna Lund in the end zone to push St. Peter’s ahead, 7-6.

“They’re definitely working really well,” Svistunenko said. “We have a lot of skill and speed on offence.

“We’ve been doing really good as a team, working together.”

Broadhead would later call her own number, darting up the field unscathed for a long touchdown run and a 13-6 halftime lead.

“(Coach Randy) Zawacki always says to get your hips going,” Broadhead said. “So I ran and went up the side, got my hips going, and that’s where I ended up.”

In the second half, St. Joan of Arc started moving the ball up the field with more regularity, although it was unable to score.

St. Peter’s would have to adjust its defence in order to stop the shorter completions.

“Well, Zawacki recognized that having three in the front, three in the back wasn’t working, because they were going through our seams,” Broadhead said. “We adjusted to a 4-2 and that helped shut them down, because they couldn’t just dump the ball off as much.”

The Knights would get one last drive, where they pushed the ball into the red zone.

Svistunenko heard her coach on the sidelines and stepped up.

“He was saying, ‘let’s get a pick’,” Svistunenko said. “I listened.

“I saw her throwing deep and it was up high, so I just kind of went for it.”

Svistunenko’s interception, late in the second half, would turn the momentum back to the Panthers.

Pearce and Salena Devellis both had long runs before a double-reverse to Jenna Marchand got St. Peter’s an insurance touchdown.

“We have a really amazing group of girls,” Svistunenko said. “They’re a lot of fun to play with and we enjoy playing together.”

The Panthers won’t have to wait long to get back out on the field, as they will be set to take on the St. Thomas Aquinas Stingers on Wednesday.

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