Bad news for Centennial Spartans’ opponents in District 10 football. Quarterback Daniel Brown might be back next season.
“I haven't really gotten any (scholarship) offers right now,” the winner of the Fitzy Award as the local high school football league’s most outstanding player for the 2019 season says. “My grades should be good enough, but if I don't get a scholarship or something like that this summer then, yeah, I'll be back.”
Brown becomes the ninth winner of the Fitzy, named after Nick FitzGibbon, and the second from Centennial, following defensive back Ben Cross who won it in 2015. He’s also the third QB to take home the award as Sharieff Peru of the Lourdes Crusaders was the first recipient in 2010 and Simon Chaves of the Guelph CVI Green Gaels won it in 2016.
“It means everything to me,” Brown says of the award. “I’ve worked my whole life to win something like this. To finally get to my Grade 12 year, unfortunately, we didn't win D10 this year which is obviously the main goal but at least I get to come out with a major positive from the season.”
The Spartans finished the regular season in second place at 4-1, beaten only by the first-place GCVI Gaels who finished at 5-0. However, both were upset in tight semifinal contests as GC fell 17-14 to fourth-place St. James Lions and the Spartans were edged 21-18 by third-place Ross Royals who would go on to claim the league title.
“What stands out the most is how hard everybody was working at practice,” Brown says of the season. “Last year when I was in Grade 11, we worked hard, but we lost in the championship and we knew it was because St. James worked harder than we did. We wanted to make sure that didn't happen this year so we made sure we were locked in and well prepared at every single practice. Unfortunately, we just didn't get the outcome we wanted. That happens.”
Brown credits older brother Dakota Brown with a lot of his development. Dakota was the starting quarterback at Centennial the two seasons both Browns were with the Spartans. Daniel got some playing time as his older brother’s back-up.
“In Grade 9 my brother, unfortunately, got injured so I got to get a couple of starts in,” Daniel says. “Obviously I was in Grade 9, but I was doing all right. I didn't really know how to make reads or anything like that. I just kind of dropped back and looked for somebody to throw to. As I progressed on, I started to develop my brain more and started making reads. Overall, that made me a better football player, especially with the good coaches I have at Centennial.”
Daniel also got hand-me-downs from his older brother in the form of techniques to use at quarterback. Dakota would learn some of the keys to playing the position and would pass them on to his younger brother, giving Daniel an earlier exposure them.
“My brother has been like my personal quarterback coach my whole life,” Daniel says. “He always had a three-year advantage on me. When I’m in bantam or peewee, I barely even know what quarterback is all about and he's in JV (junior varsity). He's learning the proper mechanics and as soon as he learned that, he always made me go outside with him. Even when I was a kid and I wanted to play video games, he'd make me come outside and he'd show me how to throw and make me play catch with him for hours. That's what really developed me.”
While Daniel won the Fitzy mainly for his play at quarterback, he also saw time on the field on defence at safety and his background as a QB certainly helped in that position.
“I know the routes as QB,” he says. “A lot of QBs in this league will only look one way. If it's second-and-10, I know the team is going to call a play with posts down the middle and they just go to the first spot they look and the ball's going to be there most of the time. Knowing that as a QB and knowing when the QB is going to roll out of the pocket, it's all helpful.”
While football is Daniel’s main sport, he did play rugby at Centennial last year and is likely to do so again this year.
“I played high school rugby in the spring so I can hit some guys because I don't get to hit enough at QB, but that's it.”
While the Spartans didn’t achieve their main goal of winning the D10 title last November, the season still had plenty of good memories for the players and none were as vivid as the bonds the players had among themselves.
“It was our brotherhood,” Daniel says. “Every football team has a strong relationship, but this year I just never felt tighter with the guys I was with today. When we lost, it really hurt us a lot, but there's no one else I'd rather lose with than the boys I was with.”
And for the players suiting up to compete in D10 football, that’s part of what makes the sport their chosen one.
“The good thing about District 10 football is the passion and the competitiveness,” Daniel says.
And it’s a pride in the sport that he says shows whenever he talks to schoolmates who are involved in other sports. They’re always surprised when he tells them he can’t sit with them at lunch because he has to attend a football meeting.
“They’re like ‘You guys have a meeting?’ Yeah, this is competitive. This isn't a joke,” he says. “No other sport really has that like football does. We would all collapse and die out on that field for each other and I don't think a lot of high school sports have that.”
Other major award winners for the 2019 season were Teo Jean-Gaston of Ross as the top offensive player, Cam House of Ross as the top defensive player, Josh Durfey of Ross and Joseph Younes of St. James as co-winners of the top linemen and Matt Traeto of Centennial as the top rookie.
Each team had players named to the all-star team and the number of all-stars they had corresponded to their position in the league’s standings at the end of the regular season.
Named from GCVI were Anakin Guthrie, Ben Boddy, Peyton Garvin, Johnny Wegman, Enzo Njo, Aidan Carroll and Gabe Tersigni.
Centennial’s all-stars were Drake Davis, Luis Alfieri, Kyle Ilczyna, Matt Ness, Logan Pyear, Ben Lane and Malachi Reitberg.
Champion Ross had Ty Dokis, Jason Rotundi, Copeland Frasson, Max Nixon and Shaveen Waidyetilake as its all-stars.
Selected from St. James were Cole McBride, Nicolas Bertolo, Ben Cottrell, Nigel Wijeweera and Jon Charbonneau.
Picked from the Bishop Macdonell Celtics were Jack Shoniker, Elliott Merriman and Spencer Verdun.
All-stars from Lourdes were Rueben Downey, Lukas Mammolitti and Tristan Dahl.
Major award winners were not eligible to be named all-stars.