It’s late August and that can only mean one thing for local football fans, the season is upon us! The 2017 season saw some great headlines combined with some that were not so good, but it is time for new stories and we wouldn’t have it any other way. The Tantramar Titans won the 2017 title in an absolute thriller of a football game against the Moncton High Purple Knights and I expect this season to be just as exciting as the last.
This upcoming season has a few changes that are important, including the addition of a new team. Ecole Sainte-Anne Castors of Fredericton will be making their debut in New Brunswick high school football and will be playing in the 10 man division. The French speaking school located in Fredericton is home to 660 students from grades 6 through 12. The new team is scheduled to begin the season on Friday September 7th versus the Bernice McNaughton Highlanders, who have dropped down to the 10-man division after losing in the 12-man provincial semi-finals just a year ago. This will be no easy task for the Castors, but multiple sources around the league have led me to believe that this program is filled with athletes and we could be in for a surprise.
The 10-man division features some new additions this season. The Harrison Trimble Trojans, Mathieu Martin Matadors, and the just mentioned Bernice McNaughton Highlanders have all made the move from the 12-man circuit. These teams would not have been allowed to change leagues in past seasons, but from my understanding a new rule change has allowed teams to choose what leagues they would prefer to play. Previously, school population that would determine what division a team would participate in. This has left the NB High school football League with only 7 teams in the 12-man division and 15 at the 10-man level.
One thing to take note of is that Harrison Trimble dropping down to 10-man football will cause the cancellation of the famous “Homecoming ‘’ game for the first time in 50 years. This was easily the most historic football tradition in New Brunswick and a game that many of the fans look forward to annually. Coach Mark Teed, who has led his Trojans to a provincial final, knows what it takes to get a program back on track. He has a plan and has made the move for a reason. I think we will see the homecoming game back on the schedule sooner rather than later.
For now we will have to say goodbye to this very special game. From the data that I was able to track, the Moncton high Purple Knights have 8-6 edge in the last 14 homecoming games. These games were very hard fought and often ones to remember. Having asked some former players, including former provincial champion Offensive Centre Corey Lirette, just how much the game meant to them, it was apparent how they felt.
“That game stands out to me as the game of New Brunswick, I will never forget the 2009 game where we set an attendance record of 5000 paying fans is an atmosphere I will never forget. Being able to participate in those games as a coach and a player was an unbelievable opportunity.” Said Lirette.
It’s obvious what this game meant to the former players, coaches, and fan’s that made it an annual tradition. It is something this province, and especially this city, will come to miss. One thing we need to remember however is that even if we have lost one special game, there is still lots of quality football to be played this season. We have 2 very good leagues in this province and hopefully this season will be one to remember.
Keep your eyes peeled for my next article that will be comparing the 10 man league to the 12 man to see how they differ and what to expect.