This past off-season proved instrumental in terms of overall growth for the Ontario Football Conference (OFC) as five new communities joined into the ranks of football history here in Ontario – the Brantford Bisons, the Guelph Bears, the North Halton Crimson Tide, the Niagara Storm, and of course, the Vaughan Rebels.
With two of the five organizations moving up from the Ontario Minor Football League (OMFL), two others coming over from the Ontario Varsity Football League (OVFL), and with one venturing into summer rep football for the very first time in their young organization’s history, this new merger should prove to be very interesting, not only for the new teams, but for the existing city centres as well.
“Having these new organizations join the OFC is very exciting for us, because their joining the OFC is further confirmation that the OFC is on track in its purpose to provide a league that is first-rate, and a place where organizations want their teams and players to play and be affiliated with,” said OFC President, Darren Cocchetto.
“Adding these new teams will go a long way towards spreading the OFC’s reach into new markets where we did not currently have a presence,” added Cocchetto. “Our goal is to increase the number of players playing football in this Province, while ensuring that teams remain competitive. We hope that the new teams have successful seasons this year and in the many years to come, and we hope that these new organizations realize that they have made the correct choice for their players by joining the OFC.”
And it would seem that the organizations are all in unanimous agreement with regards to what everyone expects to be a very positive change, not only for the clubs, but for their players as well.
“The OFC is a top tier league,” said Frank Trivieri, President of the Niagara Storm. “Playing in a system such as the OFC will definitely help any of our players who are interested in playing CIS football down the road. The league draws a large amount of scouts who regularly visit the games in order to see how well the players can actually perform in a three-down system. Ultimately, we now feel that our players will be better prepared for University football.”
The major difference between the OFC and the other previously mentioned rep travel football programs in Ontario is that the OFC plays three-down football at the Junior Varsity and Varsity levels, similar to that in the Ontario high schools, Universities, the CJFL, and of course, in the CFL.
“With three Universities in our immediate area, all of which who have excellent football programs, the potential for our players is now unlimited,” said Rita Sethi, Media Coordinator for the Guelph Bears.
“We really look forward to strengthening our relationship with the local Universities and they are as equally excited about the on-going development of our players. Our coaches also appreciate the three-down system and feel that it’s played at a much more skillful level. It should also be noted that the Junior Varsity and Varsity games will all be played at the University of Guelph’s Alumni Stadium, which will also be home to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats for the upcoming 2013 season. So yes, we are very excited to be a member of the OFC and about the new partnerships in our community.”
“Three-down football at the Varsity and the Junior Varsity levels will allow us to better prepare our young athletes for senior high school and University football,” confirmed Brad Ward, President of the Brantford Bisons. “Our football program will now be in a better position to fully develop our quarterbacks, receivers and defensive backs. These positions have been neglected in the past, mainly because four-down football encourages a ‘run first’ mentality. Universities are always looking at players in these positions, so our program will now be in a better position to profile our players for University scouts.”
For many of the top athletes with University or even professional aspirations, the benefits of the OFC are clear, but for organizations such as the Vaughan Rebels, it’s the simple joy of competition that has them excited.
“We’re really excited to be a member of the OFC,” said Fabio Brusco, President of the Vaughan Rebels. “This will be our first time playing summer rep ball and the OFC was our first and only choice. We like the Canadian rules and the fact that the league isn’t territorial. We also know that there are a lot of politics that go on in the Province and it would seem that the OFC are a very well run league.”
When asked how competitive he saw his team being this year, Brusco added by saying, “Our goals are not necessarily to win a championship. We have a lot of respect for the level of competition in this league. We have a lot of good athletes and good size on the line, but ultimately, we just hope to play competitively and to do the best we can.”
North Halton, on the other hand, who finished last season by winning the OMFL Championships in both the Varsity and Junior Varsity divisions, has other plans when it comes to competing in the OFC.
“Our motto this year is ‘Bigger and Better’,” said Jonathan Nedeljkovic, President of the North Halton Crimson Tide. “We made a serious decision a few years back to really start focusing on player development. We now feel that we can provide our athletes with a better opportunity to play at the next level. Parody pushes you. Beating up on other teams does nothing to further the development of your players. We needed a new challenge.”
When asked if he expected his organization to compete for one or more of the league championships this year, Nedeljkovic answered confidently by saying, “Absolutely! We expect to compete for a championship – no doubt.”
If the new teams entering this league have anything in common, it’s the obvious enthusiasm for the opportunities that they are now able to bring to their players.
On behalf of the Ontario Football Conference, I would just like to wish all of the teams (new and old) the best of luck this season. Cheers!