Metro Toronto Wildcats always wanted a little brother.
Now they’ve got one: the North York Minor Football Association’s Grizzlies have joined on to be a feeder for the Ontario Varsity Football League’s Toronto team.
Calling on their need for a TAP program — tyke, atom and peewee aged football teams that graduate into older age groups — Metro Wildcats president Chuck Richardson said joining resources with Grizzlies president Allie Dawe was the two-point conversion in a tie game.
“We knew that if we wanted to take the next step in this league — and we knew we have been very competitive in this league even without a feeder system — but if we really want to become the elite of the elite we had to either build our own feeder system or look for a TAP program that may want to join us,” Richardson said.
The working history between the two leagues also helped in easing the transition.
“We’ve known them for a long time and a lot of the players have come through the Wildcats,” he said. “We have a lot of respect for each other.”
Established for almost 40 years, the Grizzlies now have the opportunity to have their kids grandfathered into a higher tier of gridiron.
North York president Allie Dawe couldn’t be more thrilled with the merger as it offers kids ages 7 to 14 a chance to play Ontario Varsity Football.
“For us once players move out of our group we always sent them down to the Wildcats,” she said. “It also benefits the Wildcats because they operate in the OVFL system, which limits them with postal codes for players being allowed to attend.
“Most of our kids, 98 percent, come from within the North York community.”
Kids at the peewee age, 11 and 12 year olds, will have the added luxury to snap the ball both summer and fall as BearCats.
“They go straight from the Wildcats over to the Grizzlies and they pay a smaller fee to play,” Richardson said. “We’re sending some guys who have just come from eight or nine OVFL games and (are) going to help out their program.
The Wildcats, gaining momentum over their 10 years, have also worked with North York to standardize the coaching system. Onside for that are former CIS coaches Tom Gretes and Bob Rainford, who have experience on the York University and University of Toronto sidelines.
“We’re trying to standardize the whole coaching aspect so the kids are learning at the age of 7 right through to 19 the same process,” Dawe said. “Right now we’re a teaching club and then hopefully when they get to the Wildcats, it’s just coaching.”
It’s all about the basic fundamentals for Richardson.
“You’ll never have to re-teach a football player coming through the BearCat Football Alliance,” he said. “Every step he’ll know a little bit more as he comes up to the next level.
“It will evolve, it will change slightly. If you’ve got a dream quarterback at one level you might sort of lean to a passing system but all the terminology will be the same.”
The BearCats are also looking to be a permanent fixture within North York and North Toronto, Dawe said.
“That again is awesome to us because of the community network that’s being created,” Dawe said. “If I need help from them or they need help from us we’re just a phone call away.”
“We have a huge advantage in that certainly Allie and I, right at the top have always seen eye-to-eye,” he said. “We have a love for the game and what it can do for the kids.”
Under the new merger, the Grizzlies will commence their 2010 campaign against York Simcoe August 22 at Esther Shiner Stadium.
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