For a thrilling moment in the first quarter of the Metro Bowl semifinals, Richview Saints looked to be resurrecting their spirits after the recovery of an onside kick.
Down 20-0 to King City Lions, a 55-yard pass from Saints quarterback Izvor Gnjidic to wideout Damien Cameron led to a touchdown. With the convert, it brought the score to 20-7.
Then coach Stath Koumoutseas called for the aforementioned onside kick, where special teams member Jordan Naumovski successfully retrieved the bouncing pigskin for the Saints.
Gnjidic would connect with Jason Cerqueira for another six, with the extra point completed thereafter.
With a 20-14 score, the Saints were looking to crawl back from the afterlife, but a replying 50-yard drive by Lions rusher Connor Anderson and two pass completions to slotbacks by Josh Baird led to a score that deadened Richview.
The result was a 55-23 loss for the Saints.
“I was hoping our momentum was coming back our way but these guys were big and physical and we just couldn’t stop them from running the ball,” Koumoutseas said. “Our guys didn’t give up, but we went with our strengths.”
Their strength was in the arm of Gnjidic, who threw for 215 yards, and rushed for a dozen all the while logging three touchdowns. King City’s secondary was unable to pick off the accurate play-caller, but they did penetrate the o-line three times for sacks.
After the shaking of hands, a disappointed Gnjidic didn’t focus just on the onside kick as a possible momentum swinger.
“Everything could have turned things around for us,” he said. “We had a lot of missed opportunities.”
Still, he lauded his teammates for going down swinging.
“I’m proud of my guys first and foremost,” he said. “Personally I always have greater expectations. I wanted a Metro Bowl.
“I wanted a ring on my finger but I can’t say enough about my team.”
Koumoutseas said he is hoping the team can return for another shot at the Metro Bowl, but he’ll be losing some.
“I would like to but we’re losing some key guys like Damien Cameron, our star receiver,” he said. “We’re going to have a lot of guys back next year as well, so we’ll see.”
It’s been a year of many challenges for Koumoutseas, including the absence of running back Adam McLean and safety Connor Whitney in the semi-finals. But the Saints have rebounded valiantly.
“We’ve had injuries all year but they’ve fought and they’ve fought,” Koumoutseas said. “It’s a team with a lot of heart and I’m very proud of them.”
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