By Martin Cleary
The Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations is in a party mood.
And why not.
The governing body for high school sports in Ontario is celebrating its 75th anniversary and the National Capital Secondary School Athletic Association, which is one of its 18 regional members, will be part of the festivities from now until June, 2024.
The first of two pivotal days will be April 24, 2024, as OFSAA Day will encourage students at 400 high schools across the province to participate in indoor and/or outdoor physical activities. There are 920 high schools in Ontario.
OFSAA is encouraging its member high schools to take part and has sweetened the pot by offering qualified schools a $300 grant to purchase equipment for various activities, which could range from fun relays to sports contests to frisbee to corn hole to four-square pickleball.
The grant money is being diverted this year to OFSAA Day from its traditional Try Day, when schools can introduce a new sport to its students.
When a school applies for the grant, it must have a minimum six student organizers, involve the majority of students in the activities and file a report with photos by May 31, 2024.
The other major event is an invitation-only luncheon on April 18, 2024, for current and past dignitaries as part of OFSAA’s Annual General Meeting in Toronto.
OFSAA also is planning to honour past team and individual achievements on its various social platforms. At its provincial championships and festivals, OFSAA will distribute a commemorative lanyard and decal, select random coaches (by draw) to receive a complimentary gift and show the Celebrating 75 Years video at banquets.
Clothing and merchandise commemorating the 75th anniversary are available through ofsaa.on.ca/shop.
OFSAA also is encouraging each association to plan special activities in its region to highlight and recognize volunteers, athletes, coaches and officials, who “contribute to the legacy of high school sport in Ontario.”
The celebratory spirit will hit Ottawa in a big way March 4-6 for the 2024 OFSAA boys’ AA basketball championship. Mike Rowley is the convenor.
During the 2024-25 OFSAA schedule, which will be just outside the 75th anniversary time frame, the NCSSAA will play host to another two provincial high school championships. The cross-country running championships, which are traditionally the first Saturday of November, will likely be staged at the Terry Fox Athletic Facility and Mooney’s Bay. The boys’ AA soccer championship is expected to be held in June in Ottawa’s east end.
The NCSSAA fall calendar is scheduled to begin Thursday with competition in football and field hockey.
In football, Immaculata will travel to Sir Wilfrid Laurier and Franco-Cité will play at St. Peter in a pair of 2 p.m. kickoffs. On Friday, Holy Trinity will visit St. Francis Xavier, which has returned to the league for the first time in at least five years, for a noon game, and St. Patrick’s will head to St. Mark for a 2:30 p.m. tilt. In a rare Saturday game, Ashbury will play host to Colonel By at 1 p.m. in its annual homecoming match.
There will be one less team on the football scene this season. Despite Xavier restarting its program, Arnprior District and North Grenville will not return for a second season.
The four school boards – English public, English Catholic, French public and French Catholic – voted not to have two out-of-town teams in the league because of time away from class for the Ottawa students and travel costs.
Each of the 13 schools will play four games against random opponents before being ranked. For their last two regular-season games, schools will face teams with similar records.
The top six schools will make the playoffs and the first- and second-place teams will have a first-round bye. The third- through sixth-place schools will meet in the quarterfinals to determine the other two semi-finalists. The championship game is scheduled for Nov. 15.
In field hockey, John McCrae, which last played in the NCSSAA league in 2019 and won the OFSAA division regular-season title, will play Nepean at 2:30 p.m. The Merivale-Earl of March game will follow at 4 p.m. Both games will be played on the Minto Field at the Nepean Sportsplex.
There have been a few changes in the OFSAA division for field hockey, which resulted in the increase of one school, bringing the total to seven teams for the first time since 2019.
Besides the return of McCrae, St. Mother Teresa also has been added to the top level, while Ashbury has dropped to Tier 1/Tier 2.
On Monday, the girls’ senior basketball schedule opens with 11 games, and the boys’ senior volleyball season starts with eight matches. The boys’ senior soccer year kicks off with Tier 2 games on Monday and OFSAA and Tier 1 matches on Tuesday.
The ladder-system pilot project will continue for another year for girls’ senior basketball and boys’ senior volleyball. Each school will play three games before being moved into various divisions based on their records for a pair of play-in games. Playoffs will follow as teams chase a number of championships, including berths to the OFSAA provincials.
The NCSSAA boys’ East and West Conference and girls’ golf championships will be staged Tuesday through Thursday with the top individuals and teams advancing to the city championships Oct. 2 at Hylands Golf Club.
The outdoor tennis season is slated to start at the end of September and the A and B championships will be held Oct. 20 at the Blackburn Tennis Club and Barrhaven Tennis Club respectively.
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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