Local competitive sports have been in short supply of late, but the Cornwall Wildcats are working to change that, offering a youth flag football program. The midget level kicked off last Friday at Joe St. Denis Field, with other levels to begin play in the week ahead.
Levels of play in the league, with all matches in Cornwall, are mosquito (DOB 2009, 2010, 2011), peewee (DOB 2007, 2008), bantam (DOB 2005, 2006), and midget (DOB 2002, 2003, 2004).
The flag football program follows the cancellation of contact football leagues in the region due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In the case of the Wildcats, this meant there would be no NCAFA youth tackle football this fall.
On the heels of an announcement that our federal government would not provide an interest-free loan to the Canadian Football League in order to pave the way to an abbreviated 2020 season to be held in Winnipeg, the CFL today officially announced there will be no games this year and that they will now focus on 2021.
The cancellation of yet another league’s football season adds to the list this year, as one-by-one associations have cancelled play due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Locally, as previously reported on this website, we have seen the cancellation of spring youth football, the province-wide OFC league, and NCAFA (fall tackle football). Nationally, university football has pre-emptively been cancelled in three of four associations (Ontario, West, and Atlantic).
“The Canadian Football League is shifting its focus to 2021 and beyond after deciding not to play a shortened season this Fall.”
CFL announcement, 17 August 2020
The CFL’s commissioner, Randy Ambrosie, was quoted in the league’s announcement, saying, “Our league governors decided today it is in the best long-term interests of the CFL to concentrate on the future. We are absolutely committed to 2021, to the future of our league, and the pursuit of our vision of a bigger, stronger, more global CFL.”
The CFL’s key point of revenue generation is ticket sales, so that means fans in the seats, something that isn’t in the cards for this year. The league had been exploring a plan to play all games in Winnipeg, without fans in attendance, and was looking for some help from the federal government, in the form of a loan to do so. Word came out over the weekend that the loan application had been rejected.
Eastern Ontario’s entry in the CFL, the Ottawa RedBlacks, announced on Twitter, “Our sights are now set on the 2021 Season. Nous regardons maintenant vers la saison 2021.”
Following the announcement of the cancellation of the NCAFA (fall youth tackle football) season, the Cornwall Wildcats Football Club has put together a plan to offer flag football in the Seaway City.
Game format will be seven-on-seven, with the action to take place in September and October, though practices are slated to start later this month.
In the announcement, the Wildcats note that the sport’s governing body, Football Ontario, has moved into phase three of its return to play plan. This allows for club-level training and flag football. In other words, teams can compete in-house, but not against other football club.
The Wildcats stress that registration is limited in number, due to Football Ontario restrictions. registration will be closed once maximum numbers are reached at each level.
The Wildcats plan to form teams at the conclusion of the registration period, together with a practice and game schedule, with the aim for a six to eight-game season, with one practice session per week.
Age groups are mosquito (DOB 2009, 2010, 2011), peewee (DOB 2007, 2008), bantam (DOB 2005, 2006), and midget (DOB 2002, 2003, 2004). For further details, including a link to register, please see this webpage.
This year’s spring season of community youth tackle football has been officially cancelled, as a result of health precautions in the fight with the COVID-19 virus.
The Cornwall Wildcats and Glengarry Gaels football clubs broke the news to their players and families, via social media.
Gaels club president Ian Parent stated, “Our spring program was due to start in the next few weeks, but the Ontario Football Alliance has suspended all activities for the month of May, forcing us to cancel our season.”
The club will be processing refunds in the coming weeks for anyone who had previously registered and paid.
Parent added in his announcement, “We will keep you informed of all further developments and are hopeful to be able to field our Varsity [high school] team in the fall. Keep an eye on our Facebook page for possible club events and fundraising activities.”
The Glengarry organization, based at GDHS in Alexandria, typically fields a spring team at each level, providing gridiron football for boys and girls aged 7 through 15.
The announcement from the Cornwall Wildcats: “Our Seaway Valley Spring House League was due to start playing games in early May. Registration numbers have been strong, but the Ontario Football Alliance, which is the governing body of football in Ontario, has suspended all football activities in May. THIS NOW FORCES US TO CANCEL THE 2020 SPRING SEASON.”
“We are hopeful for a 2020 NCAFA season. Traditionally try-outs begin in late July, with the season starting third week of August. We will continue to look to Football Canada and Ontario Football Alliance for guidance on start dates.”
Cornwall Wildcats announcement
The Wildcats recommend that athletes “continue to be active and to stay in shape,” adding, “We will be back on the field at some point and we want to be ready! Thank you to CROSSFIT CORNWALL and coach KYLE LABELLE for his great workouts on social media.”
Set to graduate in June from Vankleek Hill Collegiate, James Lauzon is already looking to continue his football career, having committed to join the team at le CÉGEP de l’Outaouais in Gatineau, where the teen will also pursue a technical degree in mechanical engineering.
Lauzon, who recently turned 18, was a member of the Glengarry Gaels high school football team, a collaboration between VCI and Glengarry District High School, in Alexandria.
He’s also previously played for the Cornwall OFC Wildcats in games across the province, as an offensive lineman.
As for his contribution to the gridiron game at the CÉGEP level, he says, “I’ll most likely be playing offensive guard, but that could change before the season starts. I’ll definitely play on the offensive line, but I don’t necessarily know where.”
During the current COVID-19 pandemic, Lauzon is working part-time and training for fall football.
Regarding the Outaouais Griffons, the O-lineman tells me that he hasn’t been given a specific home training plan, rather they are “encouraging us to create/find and follow our own workout routine.”
Even if the OFC Wildcats due play this summer, Lauzon likely won’t be joining them, something he says he’s disappointed about, adding, “I just need to make as much money as I can and be in the best shape” for the upcoming CÉGEP season.
Physical distancing requirements to help contain the COVID-19 pandemic have put a crimp in all sports schedules this year, including youth football.
The latest league to explore contingencies is NCAFA, which offers a fall competitive program across Eastern Ontario, including teams from the Cornwall Wildcats. Typically, game play begins in August, running through late October.
Representatives from NCAFA recently convened a sub-committee videoconference meeting “on preparing and planning our return to play once we get the go-ahead from our governing bodies and from the municipalities we play in.”
The goal of the group is to be as prepared as possible, if and when football is again permitted.
“We figure that teams would need a minimum of three weeks of practices to properly teach safe contact and get some plays together.”
Possible schedules under consideration are shown in this chart.
The start date affects the length of the season, as the league is restricted by late-fall weather. The group is also exploring what play might look like if physical distancing requirements continue into September. The likely scenario then would be some sort of tournament, where teams would each get three games.
“Football will be back. And when it does, NCAFA will be ready for it. It’s important that our kids get to be kids again.”
NCAFA sub-committee announcement
The Cornwall Wildcats, which also field spring youth teams that compete in a local friendly league with the Glengarry Gaels, and a squad in the OFC (provincial varsity league), have been trying various methods to stay connected with players, including the use of online workouts and videos.
As the days and weeks pass, the likelihood of seeing spring football is dimming. Usually, the OFC Wildcats would be working out en masse outdoors by this time of year, with game play to begin in mid to late May.
As for the spring youth recreational league, their schedule is traditionally May and June.
They may not be able to practise in person at the Cornwall fieldhouse or together on a football field in the Seaway City, but members of the OFC Wildcats football team are finding ways to stay connected online and continue their workouts.
Using online video conferencing, coaches are connecting with their respective positional players, running them through workouts and providing immediate feedback.
Traditionally, at this time of year, players and coaches would be in the latter stages of their indoor training, hoping for fields to be dry enough in the coming days to begin sessions on the outdoor gridiron. The Cornwall Wildcats field an OFC (provincial-level squad for 16- through 19-year-olds) as well as teams in a recreational spring league that interlocks with teams from the Glengarry Gaels program (ages 7 through 15).
However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and current restrictions, there are no in-person activities permitted. Typically, outdoor season game action begins in late May.
With spring upon us and local sports fields drying up, the area’s football clubs would normally be running full steam ahead, preparing for their 2020 outdoor gridiron competitions.
However, as we all know, this is not a normal year.
Football, like all sports, remains in limbo due to the COVID-19 isolation requirements. The Cornwall Wildcats are doing their best to remain connected to players during this time, recently launching video workouts via the club’s Facebook page.
Football Canada, the nation’s oversight body for the gridiron game, yesterday issued a recommendation to leagues and clubs across the country to consider “suspension of practice or play until further notice.”
The Cornwall Wildcats had begun pre-season training camp for the OFC provincial team under new head coach Alex Labonte. As well, the club was running speed and agility training, along with NCAFA teams pre-season practices. All of these activities are suspended, effective March 13.
Labonte adds, “It’s a temporary stop, hopefully.” At the OFC level, players are being encouraged to work out on their own. The head coach is also looking at holding meetings online, via FaceTime.
The Glengarry Gaels football club hadn’t yet begun its spring activities, president Ian Parent noted in an online post. The focus currently is on player registration for the spring outdoor tackle season.