Football makes debut in northern Saskatchewan
by Derek Cornet
High school football has made its way to northern Saskatchewan.
Mark Williment, the superintendent of education for the Northern Lights School Division, said the division spent more than $100,000 to purchase equipment and uniforms for seven teams. The cost also includes upgrades to school fields such as leveling terrain and installing pads to goal posts.
“We decided to launch all the teams at the same time because we felt it would have been more difficult doing it one at a time,” Williment said.
The Northern 6-Man Football League consists of six teams in two divisions – La Loche Lakers, Buffalo Narrows Eagles and Beauval Voyageurs compete in the Western Division while the Pinehouse Lakers, Sandy Bay T-Wolves and Cumberland House Islanders play in the Eastern Division. Meanwhile, the LaRonge Chargers is the only team competing in the Saskatchewan High Schools Athletic Association (SHSAA) this season. They’re involved with teams from Shellbrook, Spiritwood, Wakaw and Rosthern in the Fort Carlton 6-Man 2A league.
Beauval coach Sam Dawson said his club received their shipment of equipment – 20 sets – back in May of this year and had a three-day training camp for kids all across the North in the beginning of June.
“It’s mostly been really positive and it’s getting a lot of students out who haven’t played sports at the school before, and that’s really nice,” Dawson said.
Dawson also noted there’s a a spot for everyone on the team.
“We need all different sizes and abilities,” he said. “We didn’t cut anybody and I don’t know any community that did.”
Dawson said sportsmanship is front and centre with his team.
“The sport of football builds a team mentally,” Dawson continued. “It builds camaraderie and teaches them discipline as well. They’ve got to learn, when they get hit by an opposing player, they’ve got to stand up and tell that person it was a great hit. They just can’t stand up and start fighting.”
Grade 10 student Ashton McCallum said the contact in football is similar to playing hockey.
“I’m going to play until I’m done going to school here,” he said. It’s been good and a fun experience.”
Dawson said the football program is just one more thing to keep kids in school.
“We have an unbelievable teaching staff here, which I believe results in our dropout rates being low compared to other northern communities,” he remarked. “There was an early dismissal today to allow fans to come and cheer on the team. Sports are well supported in our community, especially volleyball, but football is starting to gain more and more interest.”
In last week’s game, where Buffalo Narrows were the visitors, Dawson said his team was leading in the first half, but fell 42-28 in the end.
“They just have a bigger team in terms of numbers,” he said. “They were able to put fresh legs on the field where they could. Their game plan was to run wide on us and we just couldn’t keep up with their quarterback.”
Williment said, next school year, he hopes to have all teams playing in the SHSAA, but added it would be costly. Dawson added, if the Beauval team were to make the move to a league in the SHSAA, his club would have to be more competitive.
“We just have to make sure the people playing this year continue to play the following year,” he said.