By Keaton Hills
Local players left their mark in their rising sport as Ontario teams won five of six games at the Canadian under-18 women’s tackle football championships, hosted in Ottawa from July 22-30.
Ottawa’s Maia Peters quarterbacked the undefeated Ontario Black team to a Cummings Division title with wins of 70-0 over National Indigenous 39-14 over New Brunswick and 8-0 over Manitoba.
“It’s definitely fun to play in my hometown and to protect my hometown and win on my turf,” smiles Peters, who earned offensive MVP honours during her team’s Wednesday night semi-final victory in a game played at TD Place.
Peters got into playing football after a few Ottawa high schools including her St. Joseph high school started up girls’ tackle football teams. The Nepean Jr. Wildcats hockey player frequently showed off her athleticism by running the ball herself much more than many opponents.
“It’s something that other teams might not see as often, so when we pull it out of our playbook, I feel like we got a bigger advantage than other teams,” highlights Peters.
Running back Ella Townsend of Immaculata High School was named the Ontario Black offensive MVP in the championship game, while the defensive MVP award went to linebacker Marissa Lowe of St. Peter.
The competing teams at the nationals played six-a-side tackle football on a narrower field. It was the second edition of the U18 women’s nationals, with games hosted at Carleton University and the University of Ottawa as well as at Lansdowne.
The 22-player Ontario Black roster featured nine Ottawa and area players, while there were 12 local players on the Ontario Red team.
Ontario Red turned back Saskatchewan 24-16 in the Harlow Division consolation final. Quarterback Marie Sartorio of Louis-Riel was the Ontario Red offensive MVP.
Ontario Red’s path to its division consolation final saw it defeat Manitoba 32-26, but lose to eventual champion Alberta 60-0. St. Mark’s Teagan Roy and Kaliane Sterling-Godue of Embrun Catholic also picked up game MVP honours for the Red squad.
Having the national championships provides a very meaningful spotlight for women’s tackle football, notes Ontario Red player Olamide Fadahunsi, but she also believes there needs to be a focus on the lower levels for the sport to really take off.
“I know when we had tryouts for my team we had like 70 girls turn out,” Fadahunsi recounts. “It has so much potential to grow and it just need to be brought more to the high school level. That is where you are going to get the people who love sports.”
– with files from Martin Cleary
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