By Dan Plouffe
A new set of champions were crowned this fall by the National Capital Secondary Schools Athletic Association, and along with the usual thrill of victory, there was most definitely a sense of greater triumph to have experienced a season unimpeded by COVID-19.
“When I play soccer, I don’t worry about anything else. I just enjoy the moment where I can play my sport,” highlights NCSSAA senior boys’ soccer champion Marius Doucet, whose Louis-Riel Rebelles downed the Gisèle-Lalonde Titans 2-0 in their city final last week.
“Of course, I breathe for the competition. It’s really great competition, like in the city championship game, with a lot of high-level players,” adds Doucet, who faced off against several of his past Ottawa South United Ontario Player Development League teammates with Gisèle-Lalonde. “We know the kids from other schools too and it’s a lot of fun playing against them.”
The Rebelles captured both the NCSSAA junior and senior boys’ soccer titles this season. Doucet says a big key to the teams’ success is the soccer passion that runs throughout the school, and the strong bond between players who work hard together in Louis-Riel’s sports-study soccer program.
“We’re together every day all year,” underlines the Grade 12 senior. “We’re all friends outside of the program, we always say hi in the hallways, we eat together.
“We’re like a family. We’ve got each other’s backs. If something happens to someone, everyone’s there for them.”
The family feel extends beyond just members of the soccer program. Roughly 200 students lined the sidelines to watch the junior final on their home turf inside the Louis-Riel Dome on the afternoon of Nov. 11.
“It was unreal. I’ve never seen so many people come to see soccer in the dome,” recounts Louis-Riel coach Joé Fournier, whose school is also feeling soaring soccer enthusiasm with Louis-Riel grad Jonathan David set to take field for Canada at the upcoming FIFA World Cup.
“This is my 17th year at Louis-Riel and for me, this is the best year in terms of school atmosphere and school spirit,” adds Fournier, underlining that the first normal start to the school year since 2019 is likely another big contributing factor. “Everyone wants to be a part of what’s happening.”
The Louis-Riel junior boys were dominant in their 10 victories this season, never allowing more than one goal against in a game while outscoring their opponents by a combined total of 67-3.
“I think this is the strongest team we’ve ever put together since I’ve been here,” indicates Fournier. “We had high expectations from the start, (the players) had high expectations, and they came through.”
The Rebelles seniors, meanwhile, did taste defeat in a 2-0 loss to Gisèle-Lalonde in the regular season, but they turned the tables on the Titans come their rematch in the city final to earn a berth in next spring’s OFSAA provincial championships.
“It was a great team performance. Everyone worked hard. We deserved it,” signals Doucet. “Our desire was key. We’d lost our first game against Gisèle, and we really wanted to win over them, and we really wanted to win the city championship.
“We won last year and got to go to OFSAA, and we really wanted to go again.”
At last year’s provincials, the Rebelles went to penalty kicks in each of their OFSAA ‘AA’ playoff games, switching outcomes back-and-forth in all three. Louis-Riel prevailed over Toronto’s Father Henry Carr after a scoreless quarter-final, lost in an 8-7 marathon PK session against eventual gold medallist Holy Cross of Woodbridge in the semis, and then returned to the feeling of elation with a shootout win over Niagara Falls’ St. Paul to win the bronze medal.
It was the second year in a row that the Rebelles won both the junior and senior city crowns, having achieved the double for the first time last season.
“To be honest, I didn’t expect this to happen,” says Fournier, whose teams had never before won a junior championship until last year.
“Both teams managed the (championship) game really well,” he notes. “It was pretty much the best mental performance I’ve ever seen. No matter what happened, they wouldn’t get frustrated, they kept their full focus. It was very impressive.”
Provincials on tap for local high school fall sports teams
The national capital boys’ soccer leagues run in the fall, but their OFSAA provincials take place in the springtime. It’s the same setup for the local high school tennis league, which also crowned its city champs this fall, while the national capital’s autumn rugby sevens leagues don’t have a provincials (the 15-a-side version goes in the springtime).
Local football, girls’ basketball and boys’ volleyball teams will be tackling OFSAA championships in the coming weeks.
The Osgoode Panthers, the Earl of March Lions and the Nepean Knights will be the national capital’s representatives at the Nov. 24-26 OFSAA ‘A’, ‘AA’ and ‘AAA’ girls’ basketball championships in Walkerton, Stratford and Windsor. But it was the Cairine Wilson Wildcats who were the senior city champions, though their season won’t include the provincials because the league says they didn’t declare that they wanted to go to OFSAA at the start of the year.
The Louis-Riel Rebelles were the dominant force in the national capital junior girls’ basketball league, posting a perfect record capped by a 56-31 victory over the Nepean Knights in the city final. The Knights gave the Rebelles their two tightest games of the season, but 14 points was the closest anyone would come to knocking off Louis-Riel in 11 contests.
The St. Matthew Tigers will play Toronto’s Northern Secondary School on Nov. 30 as part of the OFSAA football bowls series in Guelph after holding off the St. Joseph Jaguars in the city final on Wednesday.
In boys’ volleyball, the city-champion and OFSAA ‘AAA’-bound Franco-Cité Faucons won their second match of the season 3-1 over ‘AA’ representative Béatrice-Desloges, and that turned out to be the only time they’d drop a set all season.
Franco-Cité plowed past 11 opponents in an undefeated campaign. It was the eighth consecutive season the Faucons were crowned national capital champs. Franco-Cité last won provincial titles in 2016 and 2014 at the ‘AA’ level.
The Faucons will compete in the OFSAA ‘AAA’ championships from Nov. 24-26 in Kingston, while Béatrice-Desloges will travel to Huntsville for the ‘AA’ provincials on the same dates.
Earlier this fall, Ottawa runners exploded for an all-time best performance in their return to the OFSAA cross-country running championships, scoring an eight-medal haul.
Past powerhouses John McCrae and Longfields-Davidson Heights were absent from the local league as girls’ field hockey returned, but the national capital’s final four proved to be very competitive with tight playoff battles. Merivale went on to regular-season champion Nepean in the city final en route to an OFSAA quarter-final appearance.
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