Seldom are the Lockerby Vikings and Lo-Ellen Park Knights happy to see each other on the field of play.
In many an athletic venue, over many a previous year, the south end high-school rivals have waged war, each claiming victory at various points in history.
Wednesday evening, on the pristine new turf of the Lasalle Dome, bitterness might be the last adjective one would use to describe the ambiance of the 2020 SDSSAA flag football season opening games.
"It was such an exciting feeling just to be here, especially for all of the grade 12 girls on the team," suggested Lockerby senior Breanna Boisvenue, as the Vikes and Knights hooked up in a twilight flag football double-header. "We just wanted to play our last year and have a fun year - we totally weren't sure if we were going to have it."
On this night, newcomer and experienced veteran were completely in tandem, mind-locked with their emotions. "I was so excited," beamed Alex Romanko, the grade nine starting quarterback of the Lockerby junior team. "We didn't think it was going to happen. We had kind of accepted that, because we thought it would happen next year, anyways, so we would still be able to play."
While that approach might work fine for Romanko and the two dozen or so teammates and opponents with whom she shared the field last night, it's certainly not the same for the likes of Boisvenue or Danielle Stinson, her grade 12 counterpart with the Knights.
Armed with three years of previous experience in the sport, the key weapons for their respective teams were able to add an interesting perspective, as the 2020 season makes the move to an indoor facility, albeit one that was built primarily for soccer.
"There are no (football) lines on this field, so knowing where the end zone is was a bit of a challenge for our defense, at times," acknowledged Stinson, who saw playing time on both sides of the ball. "When they were going for a touchdown or a touchdown conversion, it was hard to judge exactly where we were supposed to go."
"I feel that what we're used to is a long and narrow field," added Boisvenue. "In here, it's more wide and short, which we can use to our advantage. It was really nice playing here, but it's really hot."
Ironically, where there is an obvious difference in terms of game knowledge between the junior and senior athletes, the same could actually be said, to a certain extent, for the elder statesmen representing Lockerby and Lo-Ellen.
"We have basically a brand new team this year, so a lot of what we wanted from tonight was just learning for the new girls who haven't played before, getting used to their position and playing against another team, because we've practiced a lot against our own offense and defense," said Stinson.
"It was cool to see peoples' strengths when it comes to playing a different team."
Conversely, the squad which ultimately posted a 14-0 shutout was able to showcase a little more polish in their game, simply given a solid number of returning faces. "I think I was most happy to see, on offense, the connections that we were able to make, the QBs (Kallie Junkala/Ashley Love) with the players," said Boisvenue.
"The QB was able to spot our players and get the ball to the player, and the player was able to get to the spot. It was really nice to see that the girls were clicking with each other."
On a more personal level, however, there was an element of newness to the contest for the multi-sport athlete, who is also an accomplished figure skater. "This is actually my first game playing defense," stated Boisvenue. "It was cool to get to see it as an offensive player, to read players and think that I know that, from having played on offense."
Boisvenue and teammate Halle Bertrim recorded interceptions for the Vikes, with Stinson doing the same for the Knights, while Bertrim and Kaija Grubber hauled in touchdown receptions, both on throws from Kallie Junkala.
Lockerby Composite would complete the sweep, edging Lo-Ellen 8-7 in the junior affair behind a quarterback who came out of nowhere to earn the starting nod. "When I played lacrosse, I mostly did defense," explained Alex Romanko. "That's what I thought they were going to put me on. When we did scrimmages and tryouts, I was mostly playing defense and halfback."
"When they called for people who wanted to try-out for quarterback, I didn't go. But then we did a drill with two lines, one passing and one receiving. I didn't realize that I was better than I thought at throwing."
Her position solidified, Romanko tapped into whatever close-to-home knowledge she could in order to better understand her role. "My dad played football in high-school, and I watch NFL football with him," she said. "I would ask questions, so I pretty much knew a lot of the rules, but it is definitely different for flag football."
"He was telling me how to drive the ball down the field," she continued with a smile. "I'm still practicing, but you have to throw it low, and really fast, so that it's harder to intercept."
Lockerby scoring, in this encounter, came courtesy of Sydney Coe, who hauled in a long pass from Romanko for a touchdown, and added a pair of singles on lengthy punts in the second half. Ava Lamothe accounted for the only Knights' major, with Majia Potvin adding a single of her own in a losing cause.