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Aug 3 2022


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By Sam Laskaris

It was a season unlike previous others.

Yet George Gretes, who has completed his first year as the head coach of the Northern Red Knights, can now look back on the 2021 campaign proudly while already looking ahead to the club’s future.

The high school senior boys’ football squad had its pandemic-impacted season come to an end this past Thursday as it was downed 15-9 by the Richview Saints in a match held at Esther Shiner Stadium in North York.

Because of the ongoing pandemic, early on during the 2021-22 school year, there were plenty of questions whether high school sports would even be allowed in Toronto.

As it turned out, it wasn’t until well into September that officials with the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) gave the green light to allow some athletic action at the high school level.

That news was greeted enthusiastically at Northern and the school was able to field both junior and senior football programs.

The majority of their traditional league rivals, however, opted to sit out the gridiron season. As a result, both of the Northern squads found themselves without a league to play in and team officials had to scramble to find opponents to square off against in exhibition contests.

For the senior Red Knights, a four-game season ensued. Northern posted a 2-2 record.

“Being my first year at the helm, I’m definitely super happy with it,” Gretes said of the fact the club was able to see some action.

Gretes, however, was not thrilled the majority of the club’s league rivals decided not to have squads.

“I’m disappointed with some other programs in the TDSB who I don’t think worked hard enough to bring their teams back this year,” he said.

Gretes said several of the club’s players have thanked the coaching staff for giving them an athletic outlet this fall.

“A lot of them have been reaching out to me thanking for the fact we had a team,” he said. “It was something that they looked forward to doing every day and now they don’t know what they’re going to do with their time.”

About half of the Red Knights’ roster will be eligible to return in 2022 since they are Grade 11 students this year. Gretes said about half a dozen players who are in Grade 12 and are expected to graduate this spring, have already indicated to him that they would love to come back for an additional year of high school studies primarily to play football.

At this point, however, Gretes is not sure how many of those graduating players who have expressed interest in returning will indeed return for a fifth year of high school.

“Even the guys that say they want to come back, it’s that initial anger and frustration (that the season is over) and they say ‘Oh yeah, I want to come back,’” Gretes said.

Meanwhile, Northern was the only TDSB school that fielded a junior football squad this fall. Gretes believes that bodes well for the junior Red Knights who would in theory have an edge in 2022 over league rivals who didn’t play this season.

Gretes added there are several individuals who suited up for the junior Red Knights this season that will move up to the senior ranks next season. He believes quite a few of these players will be able to step up and contribute immediately.

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