Three-Minute Warning? An American Football Fan’s First Local Canadian Football Experience

Two-Minute Warning with Chris Saylor

On Sunday, July 14, I attended my first Canadian-rules football game, at any level. As an avid American football fan, I have played in youth leagues and high school, attended, and watched on TV many American-rules football games, and even caught a few CFL and Canadian university football games on TV. But I had never seen the Canadian product live. That all changes on July 14, when my brother-in-law took me to see the Chatham-Kent JV Cougars play the Brantford Bisons in the final game of the Ontario Football Conference regular season.

Some of the differences between the American and Canadian products were already known to me, such as 12 men on the field rather than 11, the 110-yard field, and forward motion being allowed. What I wasn’t prepared for was an aggressive product in the form of both teams eschewing punts and going for it on the penultimate third down. I also wasn’t prepared to see such a blowout, as the Cougars won 56-0. Nor was I prepared for the very high level of sportsmanship shown by the Brantford side despite being hit by the Cougar freight train.

Cougars quarterback Darion Bacik-Hadden was a perfect 14 of 14 for 332 yards and five touchdowns. Tyler Shumanski caught two touchdown passes, and Brett Wegrzyn (42 yards), Trevor Lawton (6 yards), and Ryan Grellemore (40 yards) caught one apiece. Lawton also had a 45-yard interception return for a touchdown. And the Cougar defence was stifling, generally allowing no more than a few yards per play.

In short, it was a clinic on how to play, how to keep the pressure on instead of sitting back and allowing an opponent back into the game, and on how to maintain professionalism and sportsmanship despite getting blown out. Yes, even though I was rooting for the Cougars, I have to acknowledge how well the Bisons showed up in not giving up or not turning to dirty tactics in a desperate effort to turn the momentum in their favour. The only “unsportsmanlike” penalty I can recall was a facemask penalty in the fourth quarter. Kudos to Brantford for taking the high road as the losing team in this game.

All in all, even though I am a hardcore NFL and NCAA football fan, I found my first Canadian-rules American football game to be rather enjoyable. And if I had my choice in the matter, the American version of the game would adopt forward motion, which would only help offences put more points on the board.

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