Lindsay Place, Mac to get football back

Marc Lalonde
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Pearson schools get $37,000 grants to revive sport dormant for decades

Matching provincial-government grants will allow two West Island high schools to start fielding tackle football teams in 2013 – a sport that has been dormant for more than a decade in local high schools – and their re-emergence, at Lindsay Place High School in Pointe Claire and Macdonald High School in Ste. Anne de Bellevue, will make them the only two English public school on Montreal Island to field teams.

"It's huge," said Lindsay Place High School principal Dona Bianchi. "Oh my gosh, it's wonderful," she said.

The Lindsay Place squad has about 40 students currently practising in pads – about half are able to engage in contact, while the other half are waiting for parental permission to get into physical-contact situations. Bianchi said just having that many players getting ready for action next fall has created a buzz around the school.

"The kids are really excited about it. It will be good for school spirit as well," she said. "We've seen a big change in that. It's just a very exciting initiative for everyone involved."

The team will be coached by Lindsay Place High School integration aide Jordan Coones, a former North Shore Mustangs stalwart, and its general manager is physical-education teacher Saadia Ashraf, whose football bona fides include 12 years under centre as the starting quarterback for the Montreal Blitz women's football team and stints as the head touch-football coach at John Abbott College and Lindsay Place, among others.

"We're trying to organize some exhibition games with (Macdonald High School) and Selwyn House," Ashraf said, adding the team is looking to fill the starting quarterback job for next season.

"We have a kid who's doing it now, but he's a Grade 11 student and is graduating, so we're going to train someone to do it in the offseason," she said.

City-ball rosters might also be a source of some players for the new Lindsay Place team – parents are interested in having their kids practice right after school, rather than weeknights, as most bantam and midget teams do – but pirating players off city rosters is not on Ashraf's mind.

"Jordan is talking to some city-ball kids about coming out (with the Eagles), but we're not trying to raid kids," she said, adding the financial implications of getting the grant allowing the team to get up and running were the major obstacle to the sport's return.

"The whole thing about tackle football is it's so expensive to get up and running," she said, with helmets alone costing up to $300 apiece.

High school football in the West Island has a rich and storied tradition – even if that tradition is hard to recollect for some. Friday-night high-school games in the late '70s and early '80s between Lindsay Place and rivals such as John Rennie, St. Thomas and Beaconsfield high schools routinely drew thousands of spectators. By the time the '90s rolled around, Lindsay Place was the only English public school in Montreal to field a squad – and that was only thanks to former coach Chuck Poirier, who worked lunch duty in the school's cafeteria for more than a quarter-century, using the extra cash he made from that duty to fund equipment for the team. When Poirier – now retired from education – left the school in the late '90s, the Eagles quad ceased to be.

"It's great to be able to be a part of a tradition like that," Aashraf said.

Organizations: John Abbott College, Lindsay Place High School, Pointe Claire and Macdonald High School Selwyn House

Geographic location: Lindsay Place, West Island, Montreal Ste St. Thomas

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  • Liaqat Ashraf
    November 08, 2012 - 18:53

    Proud parent and sponsor of Montreal Blitz Well done Saadia keeping West Island on football Map with John Abbot, Warriors, Montreal Blitz and now lindsay Place God bless youa nd the players and may you see more and more glory...but above all enjoy safe play