Schools Get Football Fever

This is just music to my ears.

Schools get football fever
Popularity spurs addition of new teams

Thu Mar 15 2007

By Allan Besson

THE Winnipeg High School Football League is bursting at the seams.
So what are they doing about it? Simply adding four new teams.

“I’ve got about 60 guys right now, and we’ll most likely pick up a few more along the way,” said Ron Bresch, head coach of the Murdoch MacKay Clansmen, one of the four teams. “My boys are ready to go; they’re ready to chew the paint off the walls.”

Joining the Clansmen for the 2007 season, and bringing the league membership up to 25 teams, are the Portage Collegiate Trojans, West Kildonan Wolverines and Garden City Fighting Gophers.

In 1996, the league had 13 teams and featured a city and suburban conference. The addition of 12 teams since then certainly indicates an explosion of interest in high school football. The reasons are simple, according to Rick Hudson, head coach of a very successful expansion program at Sisler High School.

“It’s like the old Beach Boys song, Be True to Your School,” said Hudson, whose Spartans were the first of several teams to field a second team five years ago. “If you could play football wouldn’t you rather play for your school? There is a great attraction to play before your peers and represent your school.”

Bresch came to Murdoch MacKay two years ago, but said the mood wasn’t there at that time to form a team, but that mood has changed. “When a few of the guys learned that I had played for the Bombers, they asked me to coach a team,” said Bresch, who threw the ball back into their court. “I told them to go out and put a list (of perspective players) together. I said if you want a football team, go after it.”

At Portage, vice-principal Mark Diboll says they had 66 prospective players at their initial meeting, and 32 of them have played football in the Portage Pit Bull Program. “The kids are really excited,” said Diboll, adding he’s the guy who spearheaded the program and will manage it, with Brent Irwin actually coaching. “The program (Pit Bull) here only goes to bantam level, so this was the end of the line for these kids. I know we have a very large learning curve this year, but we are going in to this very optimistic.”

Hudson says that tiering the league five years ago made it possible for new teams to join the league.

“What this has allowed us (the league) to do is create a complete new layer of players or expansion teams and be comfortable. Before that you would come into the league and play St. Paul’s, Churchill or Oak Park and take a beating.”

But the explosion goes deeper than that. “If you’re playing football in high school, more often than not, you are being coached by teachers,” Hudson said, “and there is an expectation of professionalism. Everybody (in high school) has a principal to answer to, a superintendent to answer to, trustees to answer to. The football team is an extension of the school. It has to be run well and properly.”

Bresch believes that a 25-team league is fantastic. "We’ll (along with the other three new teams) be playing in the Currie Division (developmental level).

“My guys will be competitive, have a good experience and feel good about themselves. This is great for everyone.”

allan.besson@freepress.mb.ca

League has expanded consistently over the years

  • The Winnipeg High School Football League was founded in 1933 and with the exception of 1935 and '53 when the league suspended play due to polio epidemics, has consistently fielded teams.

  • While official records don’t list when teams entered or left the league until the mid-1960s, the original seven teams of that era included the Daniel McIntyre Maroons, Sisler Spartans, Gordon Bell Panthers, St. John’s Tigers, Tec Voc Hornets, St. Paul’s Crusaders and Kelvin Clippers. Isaac Newton also fielded several teams in the early years.

  • In the late 1960s and early '70s, the Churchill Bulldogs, Grant Park Pirates and Elmwood Eskimos entered the league and Gordon Bell dropped out, citing a decline in school population as a major cause.

  • In the late '80s and '90s the membership increased to 13 teams as the Crocus Plainsmen of Brandon, River East Kodiaks, Oak Park Raiders, Sturgeon Creek Schooners and Maples Marauders entered the fold, and the league split into two divisions: city and suburban.

  • In 2001, the league decided to go to the tier system and formed three divisions when the Beaver Brae Broncos, Dryden Eagles and Fort Frances Muskies were joined by second teams from Sisler and St. Paul’s. Churchill followed suit two years ago, but the school went back to one team last year. Oak Park added a team last season.

  • Also joining the group last year were the Elmwood Giants (formerly the Eskimos), Kildonan East Side Eagles (Reivers this year) and Daniel McIntyre. Elmwood and Daniel Mac had been absent from the league for several years.

  • Beginning this fall, league membership goes to 25 teams as the Murdoch Mackay Clansmen, West Kildonan Wolverines, Portage la Prairie Trojans and Garden City Fighting Gophers join the loop.

– Besson

That's cool. I wish high school football was a slightly bigger deal across the board.

Great news. The nice thing about football is that is allows the bigger kid who may be a bit overweight and maybe never played hockey or basketball to play, on the line, and play along with the more traditional faster type athletes that play other sports. It's great that way.

thats the same here in nova scotia. in 1996 it was strictly a halifax metro league, with the exception of Cobequid Education Centre from Truro Nova Scotia (truro is the typical western texas town it seems, football is EVERYTHING, they get 2,000 fans for homegames :expressionless: ) they only had around 7 schools. 3 more metro schools got programs in the sackville area, then in 2000, schools from my hometown, and port hawksbury -- the town nextdoor-- got teams. we werent allowed officially in the league until 2004 (my first year), and since then there has been another 5 schools excepted in the league, and it looks like another 2 are going to suit up in 2007, bringing the league from 15 to 16 (st patricks, and queen elizabeth highschools are combining in september to form citadel highschool.. 2 of the best 3 programs combining is a scary thought).

football in the maritimes is real popular, and especially since the quality of hockey over the last 5 year has dropped considerably, more kids are turning to football, and soccer (and no one plays baseball anymore period). thats why i think the CFL would work around here, because so many people love football just because its like.. a once a week thing, so every game counts, its its always a big event.

Neat ... that is great news for Winnipeg. And for Canadian football in general!

I also really like hearing how popular football is in Nova Scotia/the Maritimes ... now if only they could build a stadium out there ...

btw, even though I've never been to Winnipeg and I don't know anyone who's lived there, I recognize some of those school names (Daniel Mac, Gordon Bell, Kelvin) ... just from reading "Scrubs on Skates" when I was a kid! I had no idea they were real schools!

I barely remember that book, but I think everyone must have came across it at some point.

did someone delete my post? :x

In a way, this is sad for me. In St. James, only one school was allowed to have a HS team and that was Sturgeon Creek. A shooting occurred there and since then, enrolment was bad. But the school division had poured so much money into the school, they gave the only team to them to entice kids to go.

Because my high school Silver Heights didnt have a football team (awesome hockey and bball though) I had to play community football because SC still had a bad rep for gangs and drugs. Everyone plays community football before high school here, but unless you go to Sturgeon, community football is your only option. It's well known the quality is not as good because of high school getting more and more teams. For kids like me though, community was the only choice but it just didnt get the funding HS football did.

I can see community struggle more and more each year too at the HS ages. It sucks but education oreiented kids just sometimes dont want to go to Sturgeon and get into a bad crowd.

the city schools always dominated highschool in nova scotia. queen elizabeth, saint patrick's, and halifax west. the 2006 highschool season in nova scotia was the first year ever to have 2 non-halifax metro schools play eachother for the division 1 championship. unfortunately we were on the losing end 17-2 :cry:

Yea, the WHSFL is booming in Winnipeg right now. They're getting great media coverage, thousands of fans showing up come playoff time, yearly expansion, and a great site that tracks everything that goes on in the league (www.whsfl.ca)

i remember looking at the footballmanitoba.ca website or whatever, and i noticed that they show highschool games on global! luckyy. i think this year could be the first year they show highschool football on eastlink television in atlantic canada.