The Carlton Crusaders junior team has been practicing all week in preparation for their first pre-season game in the Saskatoon Kinsmen minor football league on Sept. 10.
© Herald photo by Kristen McEwen
Skyler Lillis, left, catches a pass from a fellow teammate during warm up at the Carlton Crusaders junior team practice at Prime Ministers Park East on Wednesday.
The Crusaders were able to join the Kinsmen bantam league for the first time this season, after some changes were made to the team age requirements.
With some adjustments in the off season, the junior team now consists of kids in Grade 8 and 9 instead of Grade 9 and 10 in previous years.
Coach Matt Tretiak said they were encountering problems acquiring players to play with the team for more than a year.
“What happened in our school for the last several years, the River Riders, they had players for two or three years and when they would get to Grade 10, they would play senior, so they would bypass the entire junior program,” Tretiak said.
He added that players would often decide to play on the senior team when they reached Grade 10 or the senior team would pick them up.
“So we basically had one years playing all the time,” he said. “It kind of hurt the competitive nature with that.”
In order to have players with the team for more than just Grade 9, Tretiak lowered the age to include Grade 8, which also qualified them for the Kinsmen bantam league.
“Hopefully we’ll have some Grade 8s playing from Sask Rivers (school division) who will repeat next year and will be our Grade 9s,” Tretiak said.
Going into the 2014 season, the coach said the Crusaders will be starting the new season from scratch since the core group of Grade 9s graduated to Grade 10. However, the team spring training session in June helped attract a new set of players.
“Anytime you start with brand new players, the first couple of games are going to be interesting because you have to put in special teams,” Tretiak said. “(These guys) probably have never done that before.”
He noted that the roster this year does include a few experienced players who played with the River Riders peewee team, or who have played elsewhere.
The Kinsmen bantam league also consists of nine other teams, meaning the Crusaders have plenty of competition this year. There are five teams from Saskatoon, one from Martensville, one from North Battleford and the River Riders team from Prince Albert. The Crusaders will play four away games in Saskatoon and four games on the Max Clunie Field at Prime Ministers Park.
“They’re going to play eight other teams so that’s going to give them a chance to play against players from other teams,” Tretiak said. “Of course there’s going to be really good players but that gives them something to aspire to.”
He added that playing against different teams is an improvement than playing the same team multiple times during the season.
The Crusaders first game is in on Sept. 10 against the Babineau Warriors at SMF Field in Saskatoon at 6:30 p.m.
Their first home game is against the Schoenhals Titans on Sept. 21 at 3 p.m.
The Crusaders junior team is continuing to accept players for registration. Practices begin at 3:45 p.m. at Prime Ministers Park East on Thursday this week and Tuesday to Wednesday next week. Contact Matt Tretiak at Carlton Comprehensive High School for more information.