The Haliburton Highlands Secondary School’s boys curling team are provincial champions capturing the Ontario School Curling Provincial Championship with a dramatic finish in an extra end final shot by skip Jacob Dobson.
The Red Hawks competed in the 72nd installment of the school provincial championships (formerly known as the Gores) from Thursday Feb. 13 Saturday to Feb. 15 in Chatham Ont.
To qualify for the provincial competition the boys advanced from the zone competition held in Haliburton Dec. 21 2019 to earn a berth to the regional competition held from Feb. 1 to 2 in Richmond Hill where they became the A champions which earned the team a spot in the provincial finals with seven other regional teams. The eight team field were divided into two pools of four and the competition started with three round-robin eight-end games on Thursday and Friday. The top two teams from each pool then advanced to the playoffs on Saturday.
The Red Hawks team consists of skip Dobson (Grade 11) vice Liam Little (Grade 12) second Corin Gervais (Grade 10) and lead Owen Nicholls (Grade 9).
In their first game in pool B on Thursday Feb. 13 at 3 p.m. the Red Hawks defeated St. John’s College of Brantford 9-1 after six ends. In their second game Friday Feb. 14 Haliburton defeated Kitchener-Waterloo Collegiate Institute by a score of 8-1 after five ends. In their third game the Red Hawks played Glengarry District High School who also had a record of 2-0 going into game three. In a close game with three blank ends and five ends with only one point scored Glengarry came out ahead with a score of 3-2. With a round robin record of 2-1 the Red Hawks advanced to the playoffs. Based on comparative shot percentage in their position during the round robin Little and Gervais were named second team all-stars and Nicholls was named first team all-star.
In the semifinal playoff game Saturday morning at 9 a.m. the Red Hawks faced the hometown favourites Ursuline winners of Pool A with a 3-0 record. With a full house of local fans cheering on Ursuline the Hawks were in control of the game throughout never falling behind as they won 6-5.
In the championship game on Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. the Red Hawks faced the Carlton Place Bears. The Hawks dominated the first five ends with a series of steals and were ahead 5-0 but the Bears fought back to take three in the sixth and one in the seventh. The Bears were laying two in the eighth behind the secure cover of numerous guards and looked about to win when Haliburton skip Jacob Dobson used his last stone to sneak through the field and nudge a Carlton stone enough to hold the Bears to a 5-5 tie in the eighth. In the extra end the Bears were again sitting two behind numerous guards when Dobson executed a very difficult shot through a small port and finished with just the right amount of curl and the perfect weight to draw perfectly to the button. Victory seemed imminent – until the Bears’ skip managed the unlikely prospect of following the same pathway – but with more weight (and therefore different curl) required to displace the Hawks’ stone and take over possession of the button – centre of the house. By this time all the other games had finished but no one had left the building as everyone stopped to watch the dramatic finale. The silence was absolute as Dobson sat in the hack contemplating the daunting shot required. His rock slid through the portal. This time it was the Red Hawks’ rock that nudged the Bears off the pin as everyone in the building held their breath waiting to see where each rock would come to rest. It was only when Hawks lead Nicholls raised his arms and shouted “We won!” that the players and audience exploded in appreciation for the epic battle that ended with three remarkable shots from the skips of each team. Hawks won 6-5. Everyone in the building felt they had witnessed a remarkable event.
As well as the right to display the large Gore Trophy for a year the boys each received a personal trophy the coveted Champion’s badge and an Ontario School Curling Provincial Championship jacket.
This is the third year in a row for a trip to provincial level competition for Red Hawks Dobson and Little. In 2018 the team was fourth in the province at this same competition and last year along with Gervais the team was fifth at the OFSAA Championship.
The team is coached by Darrell Dobson Hugh Nichol and Russ Duhaime.
Dobson said “Hugh Nichol has been running and coaching the youth curling program at the Haliburton Curling Club for seven years and for the last two years it has grown to three days a week. He has taught all these boys to curl and deserves credit for their success. So does Russ Duhaime who has also worked tirelessly for years to coach youth curling. In addition we have been fortunate to have the support of HHSS principal Chris Boulay who was a leader within TLDSB figuring out how to have Haliburton County students participate in these events in the midst of the ongoing labour dispute. TLDSB policy is that teachers currently are not able to participate in extracurricular activities during the school day but the team was able to make it work with parent volunteers.“
The Hawks curlers have no chance to rest as the Kawartha curling championship runs from Tuesday Feb. 18 to Wednesday Feb. 19 in Omemee. The girls’ Red Hawks curling team will also compete at Kawartha championship where they will be supervised by retired teacher Melissa Stephens.
This provincial team title is one of a few ever won by the Hawks in school history.
Previously the school’s curling teams won the Gore provincial title twice a girls’ team in 2014 and a boys’ in 2009.
Coach Dobson says “The whole county can be proud that the new Ontario School Curling Provincial Championship banner will join the two already on the wall at the Haliburton Curling Club.”
Submitted by Darrell Dobson