Years from now, the more than 40 young women from St Benedict Catholic Secondary School who took part in a historic tackle football game against the St Mark Lions from Ottawa this past week are likely to forget the final score.
For the record, the visitors registered a 17-14 victory.
Somehow, that nugget of information seemed fairly inconsequential to pretty much every single participant who delighted a packed house at the James Jerome Sports Complex with a product that exceeded all expectations.
“It was amazing,” said Grace Spicer, the younger sister to Track North talent Logan Spicer (currently competing with the Guelph Gryphons of the OUA). “There were times that we got super mad, but in the end, we had an amazing time.”
“This is revolutionary.”
“We came to the field, we got tackled, it hurt, we got some scars, we’re keeping the jerseys – this is going to be a memory forever.”
Spicer is not wrong.
Throughout the contest, one could sense the feeling that these neophytes to tackle football – and it should be noted that there were a good number of very impressive football plays throughout the encounter – were fully aware that they were part of something larger than themselves.
Even as the discussion flowed to standard football chatter, that excitement emerged.
Spicer made things interesting near the end of the fourth quarter when she ran in the second Bears’ touchdown from about 15 yards out, all while covering some 75 yards or so of terrain with a run that her Fit Bit would have loved.
“I don’t really know what happened,” she said with a smile. “I saw an opening; it closed. Then I saw an opening over there; it closed. I went outside and I just remember my teammate screaming “Go – Go – Go!” – and I was trying.”
A defender during the time she has played flag football at St Benedict, the 16 year-old grade 10 student enjoyed breaking new ground, in more ways than one. “Offense was a whole new experience – but it’s amazing,” said Spicer.
“For running back, you need to be fast, so I thought that’s what I wanted to do. It can be hard to take a hit sometimes and not get your ego crushed. But knowing you have your linemen there to back you up is awesome.”
One of the smaller players in the Bears lineup, defensive back Elyssa Oystrick had perhaps something of an unpredictable answer when asked about her motivation for signing up for this new venture.
“I played flag (football) in the fall and I find that I am really aggressive, but I’m not able to push them there as much,” said the grade 11 senior. “I decided to play this because you can get more contact.”
Oystrick managed to provide one of the many highlight moments, intercepting a pass from stalwart St Mark quarterback Carling Roffey and returning it some 30 yards or so to set up the Spicer major. “My friend Emily Levesque was going to get the ball and she tipped it towards me and I put my hands down and caught it,” described Oystrick.
“I just started running. I knew from flag that you just run as fast as you can as far as you can.”
That strategy was prevalent on both sides.
Emma Stegman (Bears) darted her way into the end zone on a first quarter running play to even the score at 7-7, with Emily Levesque converting both St Benedict touchdowns. But while the Lions also hit paydirt twice on the ground attack, with both Lara Desjardins and Carling Roffey recording rushing TDs, the latter was also an aerial threat, connecting with the likes of Lexa Phillips and Tianna Sahota in keeping the home defensive unit honest.
Speaking of which, several Bears, including the likes of Gracie Mandamin, Jasmine Howell, Amelia Bois, Emily Levesque and Izabella Carter demonstrated that they had quickly grasped the art of effective tackling, though Roffley would prove to be a thorn in their side for most of the game.
“Their quarterback was very athletic, so when she would run, we had a hard time covering that,” said Oystrick.
All of which did little to diminish the smile on her face as she reconvened with the rest of these excitable Bears, anxious to share thoughts and laughs and stories with their visiting adversaries as both teams gathered for a post-game banquet.
In the end, one senses that this is what the girls will remember the most – fittingly so.