Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Hey, we've got a team at the Grey Cup!

Young players earn trip to Regina

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MYLES Barr and Chris Perron had heard all the naysayers at Canad Inns Stadium last month.

How could a flag football team with four girls and only two boys -- often playing against teams with four boys and two girls -- ever hope to win a city championship and earn a trip to Regina for Grey Cup week?

But this afternoon, the Henry G. Izatt Middle School Wolves -- Barr, Perron, Vanessa Del Grosso, Erin Selci, Renae Farough, Dayna Roemermann and coaches Andy Tough, Blue Jay Bridge and Jon Manness -- will be on a plane to the Saskatchewan capital in the hope of winning a national title and to watch the Grey Cup game Sunday.

"Dedication and commitment were some of the big things," Tough, the team's head coach, said yesterday of the squad of Grade 8 players, all of them 13-year-olds at the school of almost 700 students. "We never really looked at whether they were girls or boys, we just looked at them as athletes and this is what we came up with.

"It's been a winning formula."

The rules dictate teams must have at least two girls on each team and on the field at all times.

About 50 students tried out for the Wolves in September for the chance to get a free trip to the Grey Cup to compete against teams from other Canadian Football League cities.

Most teams at the 15-team city championship had either four boys and two girls or three girls and three boys, Bridge said. But on Oct. 17, Henry G. Izatt went undefeated to win it all with Barr at quarterback, Perron and the four girls, all of whom play soccer for South End United and form the school's relay running team.

Barr and Perron combine for a lot of the big plays but Roemermann is the team's rusher, the one who chases down the quarterback, and she's made some game-saving tackles.

Del Grosso, Selci and Farough have great speed and excel both offensively and defensively.

"We have the luxury of having four really strong girls, really athletic," Bridge said. "We couldn't pass up that opportunity to have such really strong people."

Barr and Perron are both big boys. Tough said Barr can fire the ball hard but he learned in the city championship not to worry about throwing the ball with too much velocity.

"I know Myles might have been a little leery before the tournament about how hard he could throw the ball thinking that it was a girl on the other side," Tough said. "But he threw the hardest ball a Grade 8 can throw at Vanessa and she caught it like it was nothing and I think at that point Myles changed his mind about that."

Barr agreed.

"I saw a lot of my friends at the tournament and they all doubted us," he said. "But it felt good to prove to them that any team could actually do it with four girls and we were the best out of all the teams there and we had four girls."

Added Perron: "There were a lot of practices, it was kind of overwhelming with the amount of homework we were getting. The best thing was we actually won because a whole bunch of kids doubted us because we had four girls on our team and everyone said we were going to lose but we won."

The girls figure the gender issue is no big deal.

"It didn't really matter to me because I knew we could do really well and we did in the tournament," Del Grosso said. "Like Mr. Tough said, it's about who the best athletes are."

Selci, who's small but has what Tough calls blinding speed, said the four girls used to play football at lunch break when they were in Grades 5 and 6, so the sport isn't entirely new. Farough, whom Tough describes as a "strategizer," jokes that she tried out for the team to get a free trip.

"I guess the best part is that everything's free," she said. "It's also an honour to play for Manitoba, we're Team Manitoba playing against Saskatchewan and Ontario. It's pretty cool."

The Wolves play the host Regina team tomorrow afternoon and then take on Hamilton, the two-time defending national champion. The playoffs are Saturday.

chris.cariou@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 13, 2003 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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