Junior Red Knights Register Lopsided Victory Over Lawrence Park Panthers
By Sam Laskaris
Despite the fact he was playing in just his first high school football game, Northern Red Knights’ running back Hayden Vincent-Francis had a major impact.
Vincent-Francis rushed four touchdowns in the opening half this past Friday as the junior Red Knights cruised to a 45-0 victory over the Lawrence Park Panthers.
Vincent-Francis is a Grade 10 student but he didn’t participate in Northern’s shortened 2021 campaign, which primarily because of the pandemic only saw the Red Knights play two contests.
Instead of suiting up for Northern as a Grade 9 student, Vincent-Francis opted to concentrate on his community ball team, the Woodbridge-based Vaughan Rebels last year. He also toiled for the Rebels this year before agreeing to join the Red Knights for their fall campaign.
While Northern saw some gridiron action in 2021, the Panthers last fielded a squad in 2019, prior to the pandemic.
But Vincent-Francis said he didn’t underestimate the Lawrence Park club heading into Friday’s encounter.
“Honestly I don’t go in doubting people I play against,” he said. “I just go in and see how they move, see how they work and adjust to that and then play how I play.”
As for his own dominating performance against the Panthers, Vincent-Francis didn’t have much to say.
“It’s all in a day’s work,” he said. “It’s what I do.”
Vincent-Francis was pulled from the contest after Northern’s opening drive in the third quarter to give some of his teammates a little bit of action. The Red Knights’ coaching staff made numerous personnel changes in the second half, getting their backup athletes some valuable playing time.
“It was nice to see,” Vincent-Francis said. “It was good to see all of my friends playing.”
Though obviously pleased with the W, Northern head coach John Lombardi said he was hoping for a closer game.
“It was adversity free unfortunately,” he said. “I was hoping to have a little bit more struggles with the offence just to have them see what they do when they struggle. But the kids played really well.”
Besides praising Vincent-Francis, Lombardi was also pleased with the performance from his starting quarterback Riley Chalmers.
“He can throw the ball a mile,” Lombardi said of Chalmers. “And we have a whole bunch of talented receivers so our offence is going to be pretty hard to stop.”
Jackson Irvine, Reilly McMahon and Kaine Hamilton-Wright scored Northern’s other TDs on Friday. Irvine was successful on three of his seven point-after attempts.
Despite the score, Lombardi said it was far from a perfect outing for his charges.
“We were sloppy even scoring with all the points we had,” he said. “Our routes weren’t where they were supposed to be sometimes. And we had 2-3 fumbles too, mind you with backup kids going in too. They’re new and inexperienced too though.”
Lombardi added he felt the fact Northern operated a junior program last year while the Panthers didn’t was a huge advantage for his side.
“That was a massive difference,” he said. “Our offensive line alone, three of my starters played last year as Grade 9s and they looked great. We were able to run the ball inside and little bit of outside because they came off the ball as experienced players versus true Grade 9s or first-year players like most of Lawrence Park’s kids were.”