By Dan Plouffe
It wasn’t quite the finish they were after with a pair of losses in championship games, but the Myers Riders football club enjoyed a banner summertime season nonetheless as its Peewee and Junior Varsity teams competed in the Ontario Varsity Football League finals this past weekend at Rogers Centre in Toronto.
“It hurts right now for the guys, and it hurts for the coaches, but I think once a couple days go by and everyone starts reflecting on the season – a lot of teams would give a lot to have our 10-1 record,” says Riders Junior Varsity coach Matt Murfitt, whose squad fell 21-7 to Mississauga. “We had a lot of new players this year with only seven returning, and getting to the finals is a huge accomplishment in this league because it’s so competitive.”
It was much the same feeling for Ralph Siciliano and his Peewee troops, who fell to Cambridge 28-21 on a touchdown with under five minutes left in the fourth quarter. There was the disappointment that their air attack proved costly with turnovers, but reaching the final for a third year in a row provided reason to celebrate.
“It’s a great thing for this program,” notes Siciliano, whose club draws players from the western portion of the city past Bronson Road as far as Perth and Smiths Falls. “It’s a proven success year after year. The kids know that hard work, good effort and discipline always gets the end result that we want. They’re dedicated.”
The Riders Varsity team also made it to the league semi-final with an undefeated run up to that point, scooping up seven places on the OVFL all-star squad in the process with Mike Leno, Sean Mellor, Chris Fanning, Mitchell Spence, Rashid Timbilla, James Mau and Brad Hinton.
Also honoured were Peewee players Joseph Donnelly, Andree Akinniyi, Edward Ekiyor, Brandon Whiteman and Gates Harding, along with Junior Varsity Riders Mathieu Bradley, Alex Brazeau, Michael Aruda, Lake Johnson, Joey Belanger, Ethian Goulet, Jordan Gorgichuk, as well as coach Murfitt.
“It’s been a very special group. Teams of this calibre are only assembled every so often, and this is one of those teams,” Murfitt adds. “There’s a tremendous amount of camaraderie on this team. These guys made friends that I hope are lifelong relationships for them.”
Playing in a provincial final in a massive stadium like Rogers Centre also provided an unforgettable moment for the teenaged players.
“They were definitely excited,” Siciliano recounts. “As we pulled in on the bus, you could see the eyes light up.”
While the dome was a fun setting, it was also a bit of a disadvantage for Murfitt’s group in particular since their opponents could arrive from Mississauga on gameday.
“Travel was a factor,” says Murfitt, whose squad owned the league’s only perfect record leading up to final. “It’s always easier to play a game when you can sleep in your bed at night and get up and have your normal day to prepare.”
Although the start of the National Capital Amateur Football Association league is just days away, the Riders players are already eager for next summer when they’ll get to take another crack at the big prize.
“They’re really excited to come back,” Siciliano notes. “They can’t wait – they’re talking about it already.”