By RYAN HORNE
The new kids on the block of the Canadian Junior Football League (CJFL) are looking for attention and their starting to get it.
The Twin Cities Predators are a new team in the CJFL making their debut this season after being awarded the franchise in February 2011. It might take a while for the Predators to be the hottest ticket in town, but the front office believes that day will come.
“Our long term goal is to be the Kitchener Rangers of football,” said Jim Macarthur, director of football operations and president of the Twin Cities Minor Tackle Football Association (TCMTFA).
Tracy Morency, media co-ordinator of the team, thinks they can fill up their home stadium, Knight- Newbrough Field, in a few years once the team becomes more prominent in the community.
“It’s really a regional team,” she said. “This is a team that everybody can get behind and that’s really the goal.”
The Predators and the CJFL give elite players (ages 17-22) the chance to continue playing a highly competitive brand of football even if they choose to take a different career path then university. This means the players who decide to attend college or enter the workforce out of high school can continue playing the sport they love. There are even some first- and second-year university students who choose to play in the CJFL rather than Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) to get more playing time. Macarthur believes the skill level of CIS and CJFL are very comparable.
“The basic athleticism and basic talent is no different, it’s just that they have the resources to develop the talent,” he said.
According to Macarthur, giving young men an outlet to release their aggression on the football field rather than in a bar or on the streets is invaluable.
“What every young man of the 20 something variety has is an ingrained, instinctive need to be a warrior and that’s going to come out,” said Macarthur. “On the field, out of jail.”
Predators centre and Conestoga student, Josh Gillies, said he missed football a lot after taking a year off after high school and loves playing for the Predators.
“Coming out here after school, I just get to blow off steam and hit people in a controlled environment,” said Gillies. “It’s just so much fun.”
Macarthur is proud of the team fighting as hard as they have so far this season. He believes once they start to bond with each other, the wins will start rolling.
“If you’ve ever played the game of football you understand that you’re prepared to go to war for your buddy,” he said. “The stronger the bond between you and your buddy, the stronger the commitment to go to war with him.”
Predator players are the property of the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts, meaning they can send players to the Argonauts rookie camp every spring. The Argos are also able to call players up during the season if they need a player due to injury. The CJFL has seen many of their players go on to the CFL and have successful careers including Peter Dalla Riva, Tony Gabriel and Larry Wruck.
Mike Duke, recruiting co-ordinator, thinks there are a few players on the team with CFL aspirations and would like to see that come to fruition in the future.
“Good shot and CFL aspirations are two different things,” said Duke. “I’d like to think there are a few that we would like to see, but it’s up to the coaching staff to make that decision.”
When it comes to recruiting players to the CFL and NFL ranks from Canada, scouts are usually looking at the CIS level for high end players. Once the CJFL gets more notoriety, Macarthur thinks this will change.
“As community football gets better and better, we’ll get more noticed,” he said.
Since there are no recruitment boundaries in the CJFL, Duke has found players from all over including Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge, Guelph, Simcoe and surrounding area. There are currently eight players from Conestoga on the Predators and Duke believes our college could be a hotbed for football players. For more information on playing for the Predators email Mike Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Being a Predator is more than just being a football player. It’s about being part of the community which is extremely important according to Tracy Morency. Predator players have been involved in many charity functions including the Terry Fox Run and delivering canned goods.
“These guys know that part of being a Predator is being a part of the community and giving back to the community,” said Morency.
The CJFL is a three down league and has been around since 1883. There are 20 teams in three conferences including the BC Football Conference (BCFC), the Prairie Football Conference (PFC) and the Ontario Football Conference (OFC) where the Predators play. The champions from each conference battle for the national championship, the Canadian Bowl.
For more information on the Predators visit www.predatorsfootball.ca/.
Name: Jacob Culp
Program at Conestoga: Second year woodworking technology
Past football experience: Four years of high school
Best thing about being a Predator: “I get to play football.”
Favourite player and team: Drew Brees, Anthony Calvillo and the Montreal Alouettes
Any CFL aspirations: “If I get the opportunity than great! If not, oh well.”
Name: Josh Gillies
Program at Conestoga: Recreation and leisure
Past football experience: Five years at Sir John A. MacDonald
Best thing about being a Predator: “It’s fun and your team is like a community.”
Favourite player and team: Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Any CFL aspirations: “I would love to, but probably not.”
Name: Devin McMullin
Position: Middle linebacker
Program at Conestoga: Law and security
Past football experience: 14 years
Best thing about being a Predator: “Being able to play football and teammates.”
Favourite player and team: Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers
Any CFL aspirations: “Possibly in the future.”
Name: Jordan Labelle
Program at Conestoga: Second year pre-service firefighter
Past football experience: Three years of high school and three years with OFC Varsity Twin City Predators
Best thing about being a Predator: “Every year that I have played we’ve had a great defence as well as coaching staff.”
Favourite player and team: N/A
Any CFL aspirations: “Not at the moment, I want to focus on my future career as a firefighter and get as much experience in trades such as construction in order to increase my chances of getting hired in that field.”
Name: Andy Lau
Position: Running back
Program at Conestoga: Business insurance co-op
Past football experience: High school football at Galt Collegiate Institute
Best thing about being a Predator: “At the moment, being a part of KW history as the first CJFL team in the area.”
Favourite player and team: LaDainian Tomlinson of the New York Jets
Any CFL aspirations: “No aspirations at the moment.”
Name: Tyler Smith
Position: Wide receiver/strong safety
Program at Conestoga: First year industrial millwright mechanical
Past football experience: Two years at Fanshawe High School
Best thing about being a Predator: “Getting to play in all the games.”
Favourite player and team: Denver Broncos, Brian Dawkins
Any CFL aspirations: “Maybe.”
Name: Raffaele Tirabassi
Position: Running back/full back/slot back
Program at Conestoga: Graduate of police foundations
Past football experience: Fifteen years- Cambridge Minor Football, Cambridge Pee-wee football, Cambridge varsity football and two years of senior high school football at Southwood Secondary School (MVP offensive award for two years)
Best thing about being a Predator: “I am able to continue playing football competitively.”
Favourite player and team: Desean Jackson, Brian Westbrook, Troy Polamalu and the Philadelphia Eagles
Any CFL aspirations: “Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Eat em raw.”
Name: Geoff Luya
Position: Wide receiver/quarterback
Program at Conestoga: Mechanical engineering – robotics and automation
Past football experience: Two years with the Brantford Bison’s and Holy Trinity Catholic High School
Best thing about being a Predator: “Being part of the first year of the team.”
Favourite player and team: Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
Any CFL aspirations: “Would be nice, but I can’t see it!”