Spears’ worst fears realized
The Niagara Spears’ spring and summer travel football schedule is the latest sports victim of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Sunday, the Ontario Provincial Football League made the sad announcement of the cancellation of the season. The move dashed the hopes of the Spears’ bantam, junior varsity and varsity coaches and players.
Spears president Rick Tofano is holding out hope that a Spears’ season of some form might still be a reality in 2020.
“We are hearing talk that the high schools might not run programs this year and we were informed if that happens and the government does allow contact sports involving multiple players, we are thinking of running a fall program,” he said. “It would be the OPFL season running in the fall as opposed to the summer.”
Having no season this spring and summer is a crushing blow to all in the organization.
“As a group, we were all hoping to come back and have another season with people we have played with and built relationships with over the past four years,” varsity player Zach Melnyk said. “Especially for myself, those people have played vital roles in my life and have developed me as a player and a person.”
The cancellation hurts on another front as well.
“We all thought we had a great opportunity to win a championship this year, especially when you look at our coaching staff and the roster,” Melnyk said. “We felt that this was our year and we absolutely had a window to win it all.
“It’s disappointing because the last few years we didn’t accomplish that.”
Melnyk is now awaiting word on if and when his first university training camp at McMaster will start. He will end his Spears career with a multitude of great memories.
“Football dramatically changed my life for the better and Spears is what made me fall in love with it,” he said. “It was the players and the coaches who instilled that passion within myself and I don’t know where I would be without it.
“The relationships I have with the players and coaches will last long into the distant future.”
Varsity head coach Brian Duguay was also saddened by the cancellation.
“When the news came across, it was a huge disappointment to the coaches, the players and the organization.”
Like Melnyk, Duguay was optimistic for the season ahead.
“We had a very good team and everyone seemed to be jelling at the right time,” he said. “When we were indoors, every day the progression was noticeable on both sides of the ball.”
Duguay feels the most for the players who are graduating this season and will no longer wear a Spears uniform.
“Our graduating class is recognized at the end of the year and that is the hardest part for me because a lot of these guys have been with the organization for years,” he said. “We want to recognize them and thank them for all the commitment and hard work they put in with us.”
That recognition will happen eventually.
“There’s a lot of things the organization needs to recognize when things calm down,” Duguay said. “We lost one of our coaches, Mr. Glenn Timlock, who passed away and then the graduating players.”
The list of graduating players with their football destination in brackets includes: Ty Bennett (Hamilton Hurricanes); Josh Canali (Windsor Lancers); Daniel Clarke (Hamilton Hurricanes); Mateo Corritore; Hunter Cropper; Andrew Dailey; Benjamin deBlois; Gerrid Holton; Colin Howe (St. Francis Xavier); Cameron Hunt; Trent Hunter; Mike Huynh; Hunter Johns; Owen Jones (Hamilton Hurricanes); Cole MacKinnon; Marley McCray (Windsor Lancers); Zachary Melnyk (McMaster Marauders); Jesse Murphy (McMaster Marauders); Logan NcNeil; Jeremiah Nyambiya; Winfield Organ (Queen’s); Jarrel Pappin (Windsor Lancers); Jorge Rodriguez; Jacob Snider; Jacob Turner; and, Enzey Youyoute (Windsor Lancers)
And while the season is cancelled, the coaching and mentoring will continue.
“All the players have been talking with their positional coaches and there have still been meetings,” Duguay said. “We are not just dropping them because there is no season. This is a family and we are here to help them get to the next level and get better.”
Duguay and his fellow coaches will now have more free time their hands but they will use it wisely.
“We are continuing to do coaches clinics,” he said. “There are a lot of clinics online and a lot of them have been taking them and upgrading our skills. We want to get better just like the players do too.”
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