Bay Roberts’ grid­iron gang

Ef­forts be­ing made to in­tro­duce foot­ball in CBN

The Compass - - SPORTS - BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER nmercer@cb­n­com­

As the sun is begin­ning its fi­nal de­scent through the sky above Bay Roberts on July 22, an un­fa­mil­iar sound can be heard.

Trudg­ing up the gravel path lead­ing to the soc­cer field at As­cen­sion Col­le­giate, you first hear the sound of foot­balls whistling through the cool evening air. Peer­ing out onto the lush, green field, an older man is toss­ing foot­balls to eight play­ers.

That man is Brian Hughes, the pres­i­dent/tech­ni­cal direc­tor of Foot­ball New­found­land and Labrador.

He is wear­ing a dark polo with white trim on the shoul­der. A crest of a snarling Cougar is on the chest with the words Notre Dame Foot­ball above and below the fear­some cat.

It is the crest of Notre Dame Catholic Se­condary School foot­ball pro­gram found in Burling­ton, Ont. With a pair of dark shorts and base­ball cap, Hughes looks like a foot­ball coach and he is hop­ing to bring the game to Bay Roberts. The play­ers Hughes, along with coach Tom Flem­ing, is run­ning eight play­ers through their paces this evening. It is the sec­ond prac­tice in the re­gion. That num­ber is down from the first one, but that’s due to other com­mit­ments.

With each rep­e­ti­tion, Hughes slaps the ball and yells ‘Go!’

As he does, the next player in line dashes to­ward the py­lon, makes a hard cut to their left and looks for the ball. At the mo­ment when they cut, Hughes hoists the ball with his right hand, loft­ing it to­wards the run­ner in hopes it will reach them in the right spot.

Some­times the ball is caught, some­times it isn’t. Ei­ther way, Hughes of­fers sub­tle hints and tips for their next trip.

One of those play­ers run­ning through the drills is 14-year-old An­drew Saun­ders. He, along with Joe Karam, made the ini­tial call to Foot­ball NL ex­press­ing their in­ter­est.

“We were just re­ally in­ter­ested in foot­ball,” he said.

So, the two used Google to look for groups in their area and found Foot­ball NL.

Foot­ball NL plays a game de­signed to get play­ers in­volved. It is six-on-six full con­tact sport and wel­comes boys and girls ages eight to 18.

They pro­vide the equip­ment, all they ask is play­ers come with a de­sire to learn a new game.

“We want to grow the sport off the Avalon,” said Hughes.

With that in­ter­est in mind and af­ter re­ceiv­ing the phone calls, the coach thought it would be bet­ter served to run prac­tices out of Bay Roberts.

Foot­ball is for­eign to New­found­land. It is a pop­u­lar tele­vi­sion sport to many of the res­i­dents, and there are a cou­ple of men’s touch foot­ball leagues in the cap­i­tal city.

But as for a grass­roots pro­gram, there is very lit­tle of it be­ing played at the mi­nor level.

Foot­ball NL is still in its in­fancy, hav­ing been around since 2013.

A Bay Roberts en­try would en­sure a four-team league, and give them the best chance of grow­ing the game.

“We’d like to see … that the sport grows,” said Hughes.

A Green Bay Pack­ers fan, Saun­ders only ex­po­sure to the grid­iron has been tele­vi­sion and video games. “We just re­ally wanted to play,” he said. The next prac­tice is sched­uled for Aug. 19 at the As­cen­sion field in Bay Roberts at 6:30 p.m.

Photo by Ni­cholas Mercer/The Com­pass

Foot­ball NL tech­ni­cal direc­tor Brian Hughes (left) in­structs Tay­lor Nor­man on the some of the finer points to kick­ing a foot­ball.

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