Northstars join Wolverines in shrinking squad size

The Sherwood Park Northstars were able to limp their way to a Tier 4 title last season despite having a very limited roster, but have opted to join a new nine-aside division this year. File Photo

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They really didn’t have a choice.

The Sherwood Park Bantam Northstars football team did a whole lot with very little last season, winning the Capital District Minor Football Association’s Tier 4 title despite often having only about 20 players on any given weekend due to player absences and injuries.

So, without a huge influx of new players expected to sign on, when the CDMFA floated a new concept of a nine-aside division to help teams that were short on numbers to keep in the game, the Northstars were one of four teams to sign on — one of the others being the rival Sherwood Park Wolverines.

“It just made sense for us to do this,” said Stars head coach Dylan Wright. “Last year we played 12-man and had a lot of success, but we had a more experienced team in the sense that we had a lot of second and even third-year players. It covered up us having a shorter roster, whereas coming into this year, we are really young with a lot of first-year players who are new to football in general. When the nine-man option came up, it was something we knew we had to look at. We all wanted to play 12-man, but with what we have, the nine-man option is safer and enables us as an organization and a program to coach the kids up a little bit better. To let them have fun and success in the game of football, just slightly modified with the nine-man rules.”

“In the long run, it is definitely a great choice. The kids are going to play a ton and I think we will see their confidence only grow throughout the year just from being a little bit more comfortable seeing the field and playing multiple positions. This is the right spot for us right now.”

The Tier 4 title won last season was their second in three years, as they also won the Tier 3 championship in 2016, the organization’s first title of any kind since 2000.

This year could be a bit of a challenge, however, at least from early indications.

The Northstars lost their lone exhibition game 48-0 to the Stony Plain Bombers and then started the regular season off on similar scoreless footing — falling 22-0 to the Wolverines last Sunday at Emerald Hills.

“We didn’t get the win, which is always what you are looking to do, but we felt there was a lot of good things,” Wright said. “We saw a lot of growth from the first exhibition game. Even as coaches, we are still learning a bit on the fly with the nine-man rules and making adjustments where we can. Not scoring any points is tough, but the kids gave it their all the whole time in some poor conditions and we are just going to keep learning and trying to grow as a team.”

The Northstars will host the Fort McKay Northern Spirits on Saturday at 10 a.m. at Emerald Hills.

The Wolverines, who beat the Spirits 30-8 in pre-season play before going on to start the main campaign with their win over the Northstars, will host the Stony Plain Bombers on Sunday at 10 a.m. at Emerald.

sjones@postmedia.com

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