London News & Search
When Football Canada establishes a law, it provides serious blanket coverage.
For example, all kids competing for their province at this week’s Football Canada Cup under-18 tournament in Nova Scotia are not permitted to take part in another game for at least 72 hours after Friday’s placement contests.
It’s a hard and fast rule, which means the London Jr. Mustangs players dressed for Friday’s bronze-medal tilt against Alberta are ineligible to help their club team go for an undefeated Ontario Provincial Football League regular season against Kingston back home Saturday night at TD Stadium — whether or not they even see the field out east.
And most comically, the rule even affects Jr. Mustangs varsity kicker Brian Garrity, who provided three field goals in Ontario’s 11-9 semifinal loss to Saskatchewan Tuesday.
It’s an admirable approach to protect teenagers from potential injury and travel wear-and-tear while giving them three full days to recover — but, really, a kicker needs that long a break?
“As coaches, we had that debate out here,” said London coach J-P Circelli, part of Ontario’s staff this past week in Wolfville. “How can you say this guy or that one isn’t able to play? It’s a blanket rule and we have to follow it for now, but I’m sure, going forward, there are going to be changes in the way Football Canada governs things in practice times and the amount of games. That’s going to come under scrutiny and you hope the right people are making decisions.”
A cap on the number of games a young man would be permitted to play in back-to-back seasons continues to be one of the gridiron’s loudest talking points these days and making a lot of people nervous.
After all, the summer football leagues, which include the Jr. Mustangs in the new OPFL and the Forest City Thunderbirds in the Ontario Football Conference, have surpassed the fall high school circuit as the top point of recruitment for university programs.
So if a cap does come in and it’s at, say, 12 or 14 games, it could force kids to choose between a AAA level of football in the summer and their high school program in the fall.
In the OPFL right now, the regular season is eight games and there is the potential to play three more in the playoffs to win a championship.
In a cap system, that doesn’t leave much wiggle room for the young man going to one of the local powerhouses with designs on an OFSAA bowl title.
“The OPFL has reached the point where it’s a level of football a little lower than university,” said Mike Circelli, J-P’s dad and president of the Jr. Mustangs. “It’s that good. But nobody has more respect for high school football than I do (after his years involved at Catholic Central). I would hate for anybody to push it to the side, but we’ll see what Football Canada wants to do.
“I would hate for a hard and fast rule. In the summer, the max is 11 games and that’s only two teams that will get there. We’ve got to monitor it and my idea would be something in the 20s (for games in one year).”
And while this rages on, the first-place Jr. Mustangs know they are already locked into a West Division semifinal against the rival Essex Ravens, slated for Saturday, July 22, 7:30 p.m. at TD Stadium.
The half-dozen Ravens on Team Ontario are already giving their London comrades the gears about the chance to avenge a 45-17 loss last month.
“Every now and then, they’ll say, ‘We’re coming for you, Coach’,” J-P Circelli said, “and I say to them, ‘That’s good because the game’s in London (because of home-field advantage), so you better be coming’.
“It’s been an interesting season. Both Guelph and Niagara will miss the playoffs this year, which is strange because they’re both good teams.”
Other than 7-0 Ottawa, Kingston (4-3) is the only OPFL East team over .500.
Circelli will be back in time for Saturday’s game against Kingston, with Team Ontario scheduled to return Saturday morning.
“It’s going to be a challenge,” he said. “Even though Kingston is in the East, it doesn’t mean it’s going to be a cakewalk. We’re missing a few key players, so we’re going to try to get out of it healthy and get ready for the playoffs.”
And hope, in these changing times, a long run in the summer doesn’t punish them for fall football.
London News & Search