By Martin Cleary
Ottawa is blessed with a wealth of tackle, touch and flag football from the spring through the fall.
Whether it’s professional, university, high school, junior, youth, men’s or women’s, there’s more than enough to fill a person’s appetite.
And there’s more coming. This movement is gaining steam and helps to give football a well-rounded profile.
Get ready for the inaugural Ontario Women’s Football League, which will start next spring for teams in the U19 and U16 divisions and run over three months.
Eight days after the league championship is decided, Team Ontario will compete in the second Canadian U18 women’s tackle football championship at Carleton University.
Teagan Roy, who is part of the Cumberland Panthers girls’ tackle football program, could be a returning player for the Ontario side in 2023.
She made the provincial team for the first Canadian championship in July in Regina and won her team’s player-of-the-game award in a 25-16 win over Manitoba.
A wide receiver, Roy caught four passes for 103 yards and two touchdowns. Roy was recently named to the national championship all-star team.
She missed the two playoff games to determine the bronze medallist because of injury. Ontario finished in fourth place.
Football Ontario has started the process of determining its team for the 2023 national championship, which is eight months away. The provincial sports governing body will stage a Futures ID Camp and a High-Performance Academy/DEV Camp before naming its roster.
The inaugural 2022 Ontario team had a lineup of 20 players for the six-against-six version of the game. Fourteen of the players were from the Ottawa area and the majority played in the Cumberland Panthers’ program.
In six-versus-six tackle football, the offensive lineup would feature a centre, one player on the offensive line, a quarterback and a combination of three receivers and/or running backs.
The 2023 Canadian championship will be held in Ottawa from July 23-30 and will be organized by Football Ontario, Football Canada, Carleton University and the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group.
“Football Canada is excited to be building off the 2022 inaugural event,” Football Canada executive director Shannon Donovan said in a Football Ontario press release. “The goal is to have six or eight teams participating in the 2023 championship.”
“Football Saskatchewan set the bar very high for the first-ever championship and we want to ensure we maintain that level of experience for all the athletes coming to compete,” Football Ontario executive director Aaron Geisler said in the press release.
Ottawa’s Mark Ouellet was named in October as head coach of the Ontario U18 women’s tackle football program for a three-year stint. Ouellet is the director of girls’ tackle football for the National Capital Amateur Football Association.
Involved with boys’ tackle football for more than three decades, Ouellet is now focused on developing a strong girls’ tackle football program in Ottawa.
He’s particularly thrilled to see the creation of the first Ontario Women’s Football League for tackle teams in the U19 (born 2005-07) and U16 (born 2008-10) divisions.
“The launch of the OWFL reflects an important step in completing the football development pathway for girls and young women in Ontario,” Ouellet said in a press release.
“As Team Ontario’s head coach and father of a 14-year-old girls’ tackle player, I’m excited to be part of the development and delivery of this new avenue for our athletes.”
Cumberland is one of a dozen Ontario communities which have expressed an interest in joining the OWFL. The others are Burlington, Brantford, Cambridge, Guelph, Huronia, London, Niagara Generals, Niagara Spears, Oakville, Peel and Waterloo.
Football Ontario said the purpose of the OWFL is “to develop a league where girls and young women, often marginalised in the sport of football, can find like-minded teammates and participate in the sport without being limited to the periphery due to barriers, both real and perceived.”
The games will follow a six-versus-six format as each team will carry a minimum of 12 players and a maximum of 24. Each team must have a minimum of four coaches, with females filling at least two of those positions.
The OWFL is expected to hold a jamboree on May 13 so teams can have a pre-season by participating in mini games. The regular season will see each team play six games beginning May 20. The playoffs are scheduled July 8 (semifinals) and July 16 (championship games).
ST. MATTHEW TIGERS EARN 10 FIRST-TEAM ALL-STAR FOOTBALL PICKS
Double-champion St. Matthew Tigers had 10 football players named to the National Capital Secondary School Athletic Association first all-star team for offence and defence.
The Tigers won the NCSSAA Tier 1 championship and the National Capital Bowl game at the OFSAA Football Bowl Series in Guelph.
St. Joseph Jaguars had five first-team all-stars, while St. Patrick Irish, Ashbury Colts and St. Mother Teresa Titans earned three apiece.
The first and second all-star teams were selected through a voting process by the high school head coaches as well as football scouts and coaches from the University of Ottawa, Carleton University and Queen’s University.
Jahim Kabongo, a Grade 11 student/athlete, was selected for receiver and the kick-and-punt-return position on the first team. St. Patrick’s Joey Richardson was a double winner on the second team as a running back and a kick returner-punt returner.
Only seven of the 18 offensive players on the first all-star team were Grade 12 seniors, while the other 11 were in Grades 11 or 10. Defensively, it was much different as seniors took 10 of the 12 positions.
Here are the two NCSSAA all-star teams:
Jackson Plante (St. Matthew)
Hugo Djeumeni (St. Matthew) and Ben Kovac (St. Joseph)
Riley Sherman (St. Joseph), Neil Latimer (St. Matthew), Sam Gauthier (St. Peter), Emmanuel Onyemali (St. Patrick) and Dante Clark (Holy Trinity)
Jahim Kabongo (St. Matthew), David Auger (St. Joseph), Seyiram Soga (St. Matthew), Jalen Flindall (Ashbury) and Joshua Weekes (St. Patrick)
Christos Zigoumis (St. Matthew) and Noah Portner (St. Mother Teresa)
Jonas Pasian (St. Joseph)
Cameron Brown (Ashbury)
Kick return/punt return
Jahim Kabongo (St. Matthew)
Prince Onyemali (St. Patrick), Etison Pholo (St. Joseph), Evan Aubrey (St. Peter) and Justus Koch (Ashbury)
Devlin McAdam (St. Mark), Owen Lavigne (St. Mother Teresa) and Kwabena Opoku (St. Matthew)
Rocco Crupi (St. Mother Teresa), Cole Szabo (Holy Trinity), Liam Campbell (St. Mark) and John Byrne (St. Matthew)
Logan Johnson-Graham (St. Matthew)
Ashton St. Germain (St. Joseph)
Clark O’Connor (St. Peter) and Joey Richardson (St. Patrick)
Connor Eagan (St. Matthew), Shayan Jalili-Ticonac (Ashbury), Matt Russell (Sir Wilfrid Laurier), Eric Wyatt (Almonte District) and Xavier Stratton (St. Mark)
Julien Belair (St. Peter), Josh Ayrakwa (St. Mother Teresa), Caleb Weeks (St. Patrick), Wilson Brown (Holy Trinity) and James MacNeil (Ashbury)
Dustin Coldrey (Colonel By) and Jacob El-Arab (Sir Wilfrid Laurier)
Remi Newbury (Ashbury)
Jack Cole (Sir Wilfrid Laurier)
Kick return/punt return
Joey Richardson (St. Patrick)
Nedi Misenga (St. Joseph), Daniel Disu (St. Patrick’s), Brandon Kehoe (St. Peter), Diego Orellana (St. Matthew)
Daniel Olubajo (Holy Trinity), Dylan Melo (Immaculata) and Nathan Ferrar (Holy Trinity)
Giovanni Tanga, Patrice Tanga and Bradley Gene (all St. Joseph) and Dyllan Katako (St. Matthew)
Jacob Saumier-Jatau (St. Mother Teresa)
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 50 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the High Achievers “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com and on Twitter @martincleary.
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