By Martin Boyce
The National Capital Amateur Football Association season has wrapped up in historic fashion – with unique storylines sprinkled in between.
It was a year of change and growth for the association, with the introduction of Tyke ‘6’ and the realignment of age categories to match Quebec standards.
The realignment laid the groundwork for the first ever Interprovincial Bowl Series with Quebec-based leagues. Pee Wee, Bantam and Midget champions from NCAFA and its Quebec counterparts battled for ultimate glory at Carleton University on Nov. 19.
NCAFA president Stephen Dean says the inaugural series was a success, also suggesting the leagues will look to continue the relationship into the future.
“It exceeded expectations,” he signals. “The fact that we got the three games off with Canadian football weather, with snow on the ground is fantastic.”
Before ascending to interprovincial greatness, teams had to tackle their respective ‘A’ Cup NCAFA opponents at the championship weekend on Nov. 3-5 at Millennium Turf in Orleans.
Midway through the season, the midget Nepean Eagles sat 1-3, looking for answers. Now, the underdogs are champions, capturing the title against all odds.
The Eagles outlasted the Bel-Air Norsemen 7-6 in a tightly contested, defensive final. The upset ruptured an undefeated season for the Norsemen and marked their first loss in more than a year.
Having also won back-to-back championships and lost only 3 games in the last 3 seasons combined, Bel-Air came in as the heavy favourite.
The Eagles, however, carried momentum from a 4-game winning streak into the final. Head coach Andy Ogg says his message to the players was to continue fighting.
“We relished that underdog role and we knew nobody gave us a shot,” he reflects. “We were glad to show that we were the team that we thought we were and we weren’t just pretenders. It was a big sigh of relief, sense of pride.”
The win solidified Nepean’s place in the bowl series, but the miracle run concluded with a valiant 18-10 loss to the powerhouse North Shore Mustangs.
The Bantam Kanata Knights also notched a place in the series, but were outmatched by the Sun Youth Hornets, dropping the game 31-6.
The Pee Wee Myers Riders completed a dominant 12-0 season with a thrilling 26-14 win against the Chateauguay Raiders. The team rallied from a 14-point deficit at the half to claim Ottawa’s only interprovincial title.
“It’s a great feeling,” smiles head coach Scott Boxall, “It’s great for the sport of football and for the NCAFA.”
The younger age groups didn’t take part, but back at the championship weekend, the Bel-Air Lions captured the first ever Tyke ‘6’ championship. The Cumberland Panthers raised the Tyke and Mosquito banners while also finishing as finalists in the Bantam division – making the organization the most decorated in the association.
“It’s not about winning but if all the teams are working hard and getting good results, it’s motivating for all the kids at all levels,” said Tyke head coach Erik Anderson of the organization’s success as a whole. “If you’re going to spend that much time and effort, it’s great that there’s a dedication to be the best and get results for it.”
He also stresses the development of young Tyke players that eventually translates into the success seen in older divisions – but in life as well.
“You have to turn it into leadership for the ones coming back – teach kids that are eight, nine years old how to be leaders – which is an awesome thing to learn how to be at a young age.”