Cameron Heights pulls plug on school’s senior football team due to low numbers
KITCHENER — Johnny Forte saw it coming and took steps to prevent it from happening.
Despite his best efforts, the Cameron Heights teacher/coach was forced to pull the plug on the school’s senior football team earlier this week. The numbers gave him no other choice.
“I’ve been doing a lot of apologizing. Any time I see (a player that came out for the team), I’m apologizing,” Forte said Friday.
“I wish I could run a team for them but we didn’t have enough players.”
For the first time since 2002, the Cameron Heights Golden Gaels won’t be in the picture when the Waterloo County (WCSSAA) senior boys football league kicks off next week. Cameron Heights fielded a varsity (all-age) team that participated at the senior level last year but will only participate at the junior level this fall.
Other schools are also dealing with number issues.
Eastwood is out of football, both junior and senior, for the second straight year and Grand River will field a varsity team in the senior ranks. On a more positive note, Galt returns to the senior fold after a two-year absence with a varsity team.
The 13-team senior league, which kicks off Wednesday, will include Bluevale, Elmira, Galt, Glenview Park, Grand River, Huron Heights, KCI, Jacob Hespeler, Preston, Sir John A. Macdonald, Southwood, Waterloo, and Waterloo-Oxford.
The 11-team junior league also starts Wednesday with entries from Bluevale, Cameron Heights, Elmira, Glenview Park, Huron Heights, KCI, Jacob Hespeler, Preston, SJAM, WCI, and Waterloo-Oxford.
At Cameron Heights, Forte said approximately 20 students signed up to play senior football last week, and 13 to 15 of those showed up to practice. Forte and his players tried to recruit additional students to play but were unsuccessful. He folded the team after five practices.
The senior team’s demise took root two years ago, said Forte, when only 26 students competed for the junior team and just “six or seven” of that group were in Grade 9. Fast forward to this year, and only three Grade 11 students were on hand last week for the start of senior practice.
Students might be staying away because of the potential for injury, said Forte, but he didn’t believe that to be the case.
“There are injuries, no doubt, but there are injuries in other sports as well,” he said.
“I think it’s just the cycle of kids. We knew two years ago this was a possibility … and with football, there’s usually a drop (in numbers) between junior and senior.”
Forte did consider the option of fielding a varsity team for the second straight campaign but decided starting from scratch at the junior level was the way to go. He has since taken over as the junior team’s head coach with hopes of returning to the senior ranks in the next year or two.
Cameron Heights was the first WCSSAA champion in 1979 and has added five titles since, the last one coming in 1996. Former NFL player Tyler Varga suited up for the Golden Gaels in 2010, as did current CFL kicker Ronnie Pfeffer.
The school’s football program was also shut down in 2000 because of a labour spat between teachers and the Ontario government. The school fielded a junior team the following year and the senior team returned in 2003.