London Beefeaters squad returns to Canadian Junior Football League play this weekend

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Finally, a London football team with a head coach named Marshall has an out-of-conference regular season game on its schedule.

But no — it’s not Western.

The Beefeaters, who return to Canadian Junior Football League action this weekend after a three-year hiatus, will fly to Calgary to face the Colts Sept. 24 at McMahon Stadium. The points and stats for that contest count just as much as they do against, say, the rival Windsor AKO Fratmen.

It’s part of a 10-game national “welcome home” gesture to the Ontario Football Conference, which disqualified itself from CJFL post-season competition after upping its age limit to 24 years old back in 2014.

“Now that we’re back in and full members, we’re doing this,” said new Beefs boss Chris Marshall, a former Toronto Argonauts offensive assistant and no relation to Western’s Greg Marshall.

“You look at the teams out west, they travel so much already. They wanted to mix it up a little bit and encourage some of our teams to come out there.”

It also gives the Ontario teams a sneak peek at what they will be up against if they make it out of the province.

It often isn’t pretty.

In the two tilts played so far, Windsor lost 30-7 to Edmonton. The Ottawa Sooners were beaten 51-0 by the Winnipeg Rifles.

The London-Calgary game, partially subsidized by the league, has been a nice recruiting tool for the Beefs.

“A lot of our kids will be playing outside of London for the first time,” Marshall said, “and now, they’re going to play in Alberta. The best part is our team fees are probably the lowest in Ontario, and we didn’t touch them at all for this.

“We just fundraised harder so these guys pay the same to play as last year. Those fees end up being less than just the flight to get out there.”

That will be a difficult game to win. The Colts are the blueprint Marshall would like to use to build the Beefs.

So it would help for London to be locked into a playoff spot before they hit the tarmac. That means piling up some early wins, especially against the GTA Grizzlies and Niagara Raiders.

The Beefs caught a bit of a break in their schedule. They didn’t draw the defending conference-champ Hamilton Hurricanes in the regular season.

“Our hope is to get right in there and crack that top four (in the standings),” Marshall said. “Last year, we got upset late in the season (losing to GTA to finish with a 2-6 record), and that put us outside the playoffs.

“This year, we need to win those first two weeks and those are notoriously the most difficult for us.”

That’s because the Beefs roster is in flux during the last half of August. Many players are still committed to their summer jobs in order to earn money for school.

Add that to a majority of this year’s team being in the organization for the first time.

“We’ve had a great turnout so far with around 35 new guys this year,” Marshall said. “We have two players commuting from Toronto (including 18-year-old potential starting quarterback Clarke McCallum), another two who drive in from Windsor because they’re going to Fanshawe (College) in the fall and even a player from Calgary who moved here a month early to play for us.

We have two carpools from Kitchener, as well. From there to Sarnia, there isn’t another junior team except us. Guys are dying to play football.”

— — —


(Home games at TD Stadium)

Sunday, Aug. 20: at GTA Grizzlies (Etobicoke), 1 p.m.

Saturday, Aug. 26: vs. Niagara Raiders, 7 p.m.

Sunday, Sept. 3: at Niagara (St. Catharines), 2 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 9: vs. Windsor AKO Fratmen, 7 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 16: vs GTA, 7 p.m.

Sunday, Sept. 24: at Calgary Colts, 2 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 30: vs. Ottawa Sooners, 7 p.m.

Saturday, Oct. 7: at Windsor, 2 p.m.

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