Jon Landon, Andres Beltran, and Lee Nevitte
It was great to have the Ashbury Senior Football team back on the field and ready to defend our city championship from 2019. The beginning of the season was always a question mark, but the coaches in the NCSSAA were determined to have a season. All school boards eventually agreed to play a shortened 4-game regular season.
The Ashbury team was composed of 40 student athletes from Grades 10-12. It was the first time many of the players have ever played organized football and the veterans (Grade 12s) on the team last experience with football was when they were in grade 10. Needless to say there was a lot of work to be done but the coaches and players were committed to improving during the year and were excited to uphold the great tradition of football at Ashbury.
The senior team started the season strong with a win against St. Peter’s. Despite a lot of first game mistakes, the Ashbury offense proved too strong for St. Pete’s. The second game of the season didn’t go according to plan and the team ended up losing to a very strong St. Mark’s team. In the third game the Ashbury offense exploded with 21 points in the first 4 minutes of the 2nd half to defeat a strong St. Matthews team. In the final game of the regular season the team played one of its most complete games and handedly beat Holy Trinity. With a 3-1 record the Ashbury team was in a three way tie for 2nd place. Due to the team’s points against, the Ashbury team fell to 4th place. This meant that the team would have to play St. Marks in the tier 1 semi-final.
In the semi-final game the Ashbury team showed great determination battling back from a 21 point deficit to bring the game to a 21-14 score with 2 minutes left on the clock. The Ashbury offense drove the ball all the way to the St. Mark’s 9 yard line but was stopped close to the goal. This was by far the best game the team had played all season. The veteran players showed great determination and leadership in fighting back in what was a hard-hitting physical game.
All of the coaches and returning players are looking forward to next season as all but one of the starting defensive players will be returning next season and some of the most dynamic players on the offensive side are in Grade 10. The hope is to have a complete offseason program for our players and to get them out on the field during the summer in order to hit the ground running for the 2022 season.
Junior (Grade 9)
With all the uncertainty of sports this Fall, we were extremely happy to have been able to get a junior (Grade 9 and some Grade 10 players) football team up and running! We had 23 keen, dedicated and hardworking players who joined to be part of the 7-on-7 league that we have been running for a few years now. Since many of the other local schools were unable to have the necessary resources to run their junior team this year, we were afraid that we potentially would not be able to play any “real games” against other opposition. Luckily, we were able to secure 3 games for the boys in the end, which was great! Our first game was against a local school, Franco Cite. It was a hard-fought match with a lot of back and forth, but in the end it was Ashbury that came out ahead! For our next two games we had a great opportunity present itself against St. Michael’s High School in rural Low, Quebec (just off highway 105 heading up towards Mont Ste. Marie…) about an hour away from Ashbury. We set up a home and home series against them which started at Ashbury. Since they are a Quebec school they only go up to Grade 11, therefore we played against their Grade 9, 10 and 11 players. In the rain and facing yet another game in less than ideal field conditions on our home Ashbury field, we were able to secure our second win of the season! We hosted the team after our game with some pizza, drinks and a few Player of the Game awards before they headed back home. The following week we made the road trip to St. Michaels and played in the pouring rain and yet another mud bowl – which was awesome! The energy was great and the home team had quite the crowd of students, admin and parents supporting their team. The game went back and forth and in the end the final score was 21-14 for Ashbury once again! They hosted us after the game and put on a great barbecue for us all and even surprised the entire team and coaching staff by presenting us all with our own handmade wooden football souvenir that they had made for us in their carpentry class. In the end, football came out winning and we have clearly made some new friends and a great connection that we hope to continue with in the future!
Junior School (Grades 7-8)
In a first for the Ashbury football program, 14 students from Grades 7 and 8 suited up in football pads for their own fall season. This was the first tackle football experience for most players, and the group brought great enthusiasm to practice each week while building solid fundamental skills on both offence and defence.
The season consisted of a home-and-home series against the Grade 7-8 team from St. Michael’s High School in Low, Quebec. Our first game was a rain-soaked and muddy contest on the Ashbury field. Despite these tough conditions, the Ashbury offense was able to move the ball with solid blocking, hard running and timely passing, while the defense challenged the St. Michael’s offense (built around one very powerful running back). Although the visitors came out ahead on the scoreboard, our players competed hard and learned a lot from this first competitive experience.
The second (and final) game was in Low, Quebec, and again in the pouring rain! With almost every Ashbury player switching from offence to defence (or vice versa), there were some great team-tackles on defense, and another balanced run-pass attack on offence. St. Michael’s found the endzone a few more times than we did, but our players showed tremendous growth in their skills and game-sense since the start of the year, and even in the week separating our two games.
The introduction of tackle football to players in Grades 7 and 8 is a big step for player development in the Ashbury football program – stay tuned in the coming years to see these players anchoring the Junior and Varsity teams!