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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Varsity Ravens soar to the top of Ontario teams

Photo courtesy of Julie Vanlare - Ravens LB Everett Vanlare poses with the OPFL Varsity Championship trophy.The Ravens defeated the Ottawa Sooners, 25-6.

by Garrett Fodor

On Saturday, the Essex Varsity Ravens football team faced the Ottawa Sooners at London’s TD Stadium in the Ontario Provincial Football League (OPFL) Varsity Finals. The Varsity Ravens were looking to add another win to their All Ontario titles earned in 1998, 2002, 2010, and 2015. 

The Ravens earned top seed in the East Conference, posting an OPFL best record of 7-1 and defeated the Cambridge Lions and the London Jr. Mustangs to make the finals. Ottawa had the two seed in the west with a 4-4 record. The Sooners defeated the Queen Jr. Gaels and the Durham Dolphins to earn their place in the finals.

  In their previous meeting this year, which took place on June 15, the Ravens won, beating the Sooners, 33-2. 

  From kick off, Ravens’ Head Coach Glen Mills described the atmosphere as loud, anxious, and like a home game. He added the Ravens had about 250 fans in attendance for the game, who were behind the players throughout the game. 

  While the Sooners scored three early points, the Ravens would come back to tie it going into half. 

  Coach Mills was quick to fire up his team coming out of the intermission, as the Ravens took the first possession of the half back for a touchdown. From there, the defense took over and didn’t let the Sooners back in, while the offense continued to hit its stride. The Sooners would kick one more field goal, while the Ravens would add 22 points in the half to defeat the Sooners, 25 to 6. 

Mills added the Ravens’ defense was tremendous throughout the year and came up strong when they needed to in the finals.

  Everett Vanlare is a Grade 12 student at Essex District High School (EDHS) and has been a linebacker in the Ravens’ program since 2015. He believed the team was calm throughout the game and played the game plan put in place from the start of the match-up. Defeating Ottawa earlier in the year helped build the Ravens’ confidence for the game on Saturday.

  Vanlare is grateful to have won the OPFL title with the core of players who have played together for many years and it is something everyone will remember forever. 

  Now that the OPFL finals have taken place, Vanlare will focus on his senior year at EDHS, where he will get to play football with his younger brother, Dalton. He is grateful to Coach Mills for always supporting his players throughout the season and the fans who cheered the team on Saturday and throughout the year. 

  Mills appreciates the support from everyone in the community. Without that support, big wins would not be possible. He added between the age groups, there are over 180 players and hundreds of volunteers associated with the team. While trying to help them be interested and participate in football, Coach Mills said the program is more focused on growing players off the field and shaping them into men. 

  The Ravens will graduate nine players this season with 35 eligible to comeback for next season. Mills said workouts will begin in December ahead of next season. 

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