Turning the tide of the Panthers’ game

FRANCIS CRESCIA/TOWN CRIER ROUTE RUNNER: Lawrence Park's Justin Babin is modest about all the attention he receives from peers regarding his on-field prowess, saying he just loves playing football with his friends.
ROUTE RUNNER: Lawrence Park’s Justin Babin is modest about all the attention he receives from peers regarding his on-field prowess, saying he just loves playing football with his friends.

When clutch time arrives, Justin Babin gives his all

Justin Babin can turn a game around on a dime.

It’s something Lawrence Park’s head coach Mark Harrison has noticed about the senior wide receiver.

“You know we have some good players, some really hard-working kids, but the ability to take a game over is pretty rare, and I would say I probably haven’t had a kid like that at Lawrence for nine years.”

Justin is modest with the attention. Newspapers have ranked the grade 12 as one of the top footballers in the city.

“To be noticed for something you do is always fantastic and I feel privileged to be one of the names they’ve selected as a top player,” he says while chatting over the phone.

It doesn’t take much to get him ready to play either.

“I really don’t have to psyche myself up,” he says. “The fact that I’m playing football with my friends at a decently high level of football, it just gets me excited and I’m ready to have fun before every game.”

Harrison recalls a big game Nov. 12 against Marc Garneau Cougars when Babin came through in the clutch.

“Garneau had won two playoff games and were on a roll,” Harrison says. “Towards the end of the first quarter they were up 6-0 on us and had the ball on our 11 yard line.”

But with the changing of the quarter, the Cougars were tamed.

“Justin came out and scored four touchdowns almost in a row,” Harrison says. “The rest of the team was panicking and he just took the whole thing over. It was pretty amazing to watch.”

Winning 49-14, the Panthers advanced to the next round, and they did it with #2 out of position.

“It was ironic, because it was the first game (Babin) played at Lawrence Park where he didn’t catch a pass,” Harrison said. “We had moved him to tailback for the game.

“He scored three touchdowns on running plays and returned the opening second-half kickoff back for a touchdown.”

But, Harrison avoids getting sentimental about his top long-ball prowler.

“He’s not the most boisterous kid, he’s not the rah-rah-rah guy, but he’s at every practice, … he’s at the front of the line on every drill,” he says. “He’s not a kid that I perceive loves practice but he knows he has to put in the time and he doesn’t take his skills for granted, which is nice.”

When it comes to role models, Justin looks to the NFL’s all-time reception leader.

“I met Jerry Rice a couple months ago for a promotional thing,” he says. “He’s definitely one of my role models.”

Justin doesn’t forget his friends though and those who have helped him progress as a player, like the folks at Metro Toronto Wildcats.

“They’ve all helped me out with the success that I’ve had, and they’ve all been great.”

University is next on Justin’s agenda, but doesn’t know where yet — preferably where there are film studies, and a gridiron, naturally.

As for leaving a lasting impression, Justin says it’s the other way around.

“My experience at Lawrence Park has been great. I’ve been there for four years,” he says. “I’ve played football for three, and I wouldn’t have started playing (it) if I didn’t go to this high school, because my friends are the ones who got me into playing football.”

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