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HS Football
AK Ismail helps propel St. Matt’s to All Saints Bowl win

By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

A pair of fingertip catches by St. Matt’s receiver A.K. Ismail helped propel the Tigers to a 21-7 win over the Franco-Cité Falcons on Oct. 5 in the second annual All Saints Bowl at Millennium Park.

Ismail’s performance was meaningful in a lot of ways, not the least of which is the fact that he is a Muslim playing at a Catholic high school. Take that, Donald Trump.

St. Matthew running back Lovely Tshibanda cuts around a Franco-Cité defender in the All Saints Bowl last week. The Tigers won the game 21-2. Fred Sherwin/Photo

But even more awe-inspiring is the fact that it was his first game playing between the hash marks since suffering a season-ending injury one year ago to the day against the very same Franco-Cité team.

Ismail broke his leg against the Falcons in the second game of the season last year, which forced him to miss the All Saints Bowl against the St. Peter Knights. He’s taken reps in practice, but a forfeit against Philomen Wright in the opening week of the season meant that he had to wait for his return against the Falcons.

Coming off their win in the OFSAA Metro Bowl last year, and playing without OFSAA bowl MVP Kian Williams and fellow standout Katley Joseph who both transferred to Canada Prep Academy in St. Catharines during the summer, the Tigers had a lot to prove both to them-selves and to the rest of league.

It didn’t take long for them to dispel any doubts that they would be a force to be reckoned with again this year.

Led by Grade 11 quarterback Xavier Gervais and the backfield tandem of Enoc Enyaka and Lovely Tshibanda, the Tigers overcame a flurry of penalties in the first half, including a holding call that negated an early touchdown, to eventually take a 7-0 lead on a 31-yard run by Willy Pierrer Dimbongi who scored with 4.2 seconds left in the second quarter.

The Falcons came close to tying the game midway through the third stanza but were guilty of dropping the ball in the end zone resulting in a turnover on downs.

The Tigers immediately took advantage of the situation two plays later on a pass down the middle from Gervais to Ismail who made the fingertip catch at full speed resulting in a 91-yard touchdown.

The pair would hook up again three minutes later for 60-yard TD pass that put the game out of reach.

When the final whistle blew, Ismail expressed his gratitude for the opporunity to get to play the game he loves so much again.

“I’ve been waiting for this moment all year. It definitely felt good,” said Ismail who almost had a third touchdown catch. “I’m trying to give a year’s performance in every game I play for the time I missed.”

The Tigers were originally scheduled to play the St. Peter Knights in the All Saints Bowl, but the last year’s winners had to pull out due to a conflict with the St. Pete’s 40th anniversary reunion which was taking place at the same time.

(Updated 5 p.m., Sept. 29

 

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