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Aug 3 2022


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By Sam Laskaris
The Northern Red Knights are gearing up for their first game in almost two years. The Toronto-based high school senior boys’ football squad had its entire 2020 campaign wiped out because of the COVID-19 pandemic. And the ongoing pandemic is still having impacts on school sports. Early on this academic year it appeared the Red Knights might not get the chance to play this fall either.

But as it turns out, Northern is one of the few Toronto public schools that is fielding a squad now. Though it will not be participating in a league, Northern has lined up several exhibition contests. The Red Knights’ first contest is Friday (Oct. 29) against their perennial rivals, the Etobicoke-based Richview Saints. That match, which will be held at Esther Shiner Stadium, has an opening kickoff scheduled for 2 p.m.

“Speaking not only for myself but for everyone on the team, we were just super excited to get back out here to play,” said Josh Rosenfeld, a Grade 12 student who is Northern’s starting quarterback. “It’s just an amazing feeling.”

Rosenfeld added the squad is content with the fact it will only play exhibition matches in 2021. “Obviously we’re a little bummed out there’s no league,” he said. “All of us are competitors so we want to win. Going from having nothing to even having exhibition games is a huge improvement.” Rosenfeld added the club’s win-loss record this season will not be a focus.

“Obviously we want to win,” he said.  “But (our record) is not going to be affected because there are no playoffs. We just want to go out, have fun and do the best we can possibly do.”

Like his teammates, Red Knights’ slotback Tate Crowther-Brown is also thrilled to be back on the gridiron. “It’s really great,” he said. “I played in Grade 9 and Grade 10. It was a great experience and I made a lot of friends because I was new to the school. It’s just really great to see all the guys again and to be able to play a sport I love again.”

Crowther-Brown, a Grade 12 student, added though participating in its usual Toronto circuit would have been ideal, the Northern squad is content with its fate of battling in exhibition encounters.

“I’m sure everyone would love to have a league,” he said. “But with the circumstances we’re faced with right now, we’re happy to take whatever is thrown at us. And just to play football again is a great experience for everyone.”

Red Knights’ middle linebacker Dylan Shaw has spent the past three months also suiting up for the Scarborough Thunder club team. But he’s ecstatic to be joining his Northern teammates once again and preparing for some games. “It’s awesome just seeing the guys again,” Shaw said. “Getting into action is one of the best feelings ever. I felt like a part was missing through quarantine when we couldn’t do anything so it felt amazing just to get our pads back on and to just be hitting at each other.”

Shaw believes his teammates are equally excited.

“It’s 100 per cent better than nothing,” Shaw said of the fact the Red Knights are not in a league. “Even just playing a game is an incredible opportunity. Even if we just have the five or six games, it’s amazing and I know these guys are going to put their hearts out so I’m excited to play this season.”
The Red Knights’ coaching staff is also eager to get started with some action.

“We’re really excited,” said George Gretes, who has taken over the role of Red Knights’ first-year Head Coach. “It’s been two years off the field. A lot of guys have been waiting for this moment. We almost thought we weren’t going to have a season. And now we have an opportunity to play a long-time rival, Richview. We’re excited to do that.”

Gretes believes the Red Knights will fare well this year.

“We’ve got some really big guys, the biggest team we’ve ever had,” he said, adding the club’s roster features 61 players, the largest number in years. “Before COVID we were at about 40. But now we’ve got guys competing for spots. And we’ve got a good group of Grade 11s that are going to be ready to go for next year.”

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