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Essex Ravens waiting to defend title


by Garrett Fodor

After winning the Ontario Provincial Football League (OPFL) Varsity title last season, defending its title has been anything but normal this year for the Essex Ravens. 

  The Essex Ravens is one of many local sports teams that have had its dreams, workouts, and seasons put on hold amid the COVID-19 outbreak, which dates back to March in Ontario. After winning the 2019 OPFL Varsity title, along with WESPY awards for coach and team of the year, the Ravens were scheduled to hit the field in early May, looking to defend their championship title. But, amid the pandemic, team activities have been suspended and the season has been pushed back, as league officials are exploring options for starting the season in the fall.

“Ideally, I hope we’re able to push it back and do something to give these guys an opportunity,” Ravens Head Coach, Glen Mills, said. “A lot of kids use the film and these opportunities for university scholarships. We don’t have a lot of average kids here. We have elite kids and they’re looking to play at the next level. They need to compete against top talent to get that film.”

  Mills noted the safety of the players, coaches, and staff is crucial, and believes that this will be an eye-opening experience. He believes there will be changes that will come from this that he believes will help in the long-run. 

“With everything shut-down now, basically until sometime in July, there’s nothing you can do right now,” Mills commented. “Now, if things return back to normal, and we’ll know that by the end of June in regards to if they’re going back to school and what their plans are, that will affect us. The fact that getting places to play and practice, they’re all shut down as well, so it’s very difficult with that situation. As stuff opens back up and the government gives the okay, I think we’ll have a much better timeline and time frame in regards to when and how we can proceed.” 

  When Mills looks at his team, he sees there is a lot to be excited about, and there are high expectations coming into this season, if and when they are able to get onto the field. As the team did not lose any players from last year, they also added what he describes as top young talent who will help round out the team.

  But, as Mills noted, the sudden change from preparing to be at the field to having to anxiously wait for a decision, the mental aspect of the game and the social value has changed. While he admits he has struggled, he cannot imagine how the players have felt, as now is when the Ravens were supposed to be playing.

  “Our coaches have put some videos out online and we’ve sent some film out to kids,” Mills said. “We stay in touch with kids and try to keep them engaged. Its a difficult time for kids with school where it’s at and no sports, it’s crucial that we can stay in touch with these guys just for the mental health part of that as well. It’s very difficult for young kids, when you play football your whole life and all sudden you can’t play it. For some of these kids, it’s life-changing. We try to support them, stay engaged, just keep them working, and staying conditioned.”

© 2020 The Essex Free Press ltd.

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