No pressure on the Richmond Raiders. Only about 60 years of organized football in the city is resting solely on their shoulders.
The community program is now the lone gridiron option in Richmond after a decision was made in June for the senior varsity team at Hugh Boyd Secondary not proceed for the 2018 high school season and very likely beyond.
The Vancouver Mainland Football League regular season kickoffs Labour Day Weekend and, for the first time in recent memory, the Raiders will be fielding teams in all six divisions — including at the Midget level for 16-to-18-year-olds.
This isn’t a reflection of the Boyd program’s demise but rather the success Richmond Minor has had playing in the 9-man VMFL Bantam League the last several years, including a provincial championship in 2017. A decision to proceed with a Midget team was made months before learning of the Trojans not continuing.
“Last year we had a team of 17 players coming from five different high schools and eight had never played the game before,” explained Raiders Bantam head coach and longtime executive Rob Parmar.
“Eleven or 12 of those kids were going to graduate from Bantam and wanted to continue playing. Two were heading to Boyd to play senior varsity but we decided to go with a Midget team as well to see if there was enough interest.”
So far the Midget team has attracted five players from Boyd. Three of those graduated in June since the league allows 18-year-olds.
Some of Boyd’s top senior players have transferred to schools outside of Richmond to play this coming season. The others haven’t been actively recruited but are welcome to come be part of the Silver and Black.
“It’s terrible what happened to them and we wanted to be sensitive to that fact and let them decide themselves if they want to come,” continued Parmar. “It was just too fresh. There was still a lot of bitterness and finger pointing happening.
“Our door is always open. What usually happens is the season starts up and kids come out and watch and might want to be part of it. They are welcome to join.”
The Raiders Midget and Bantam teams are currently running joint practices three times a week at Minoru Park. The Midget squad is being guided by Casey Fisher.
Much of the training sessions are done without pads as contact is now limited to just 30 minutes a week under strict league-mandated safety rules that also includes the teaching of proper tackling techniques.
The VMFL has also made dropped contact from the Atom age (eight-and-nine-year-olds) this coming season. The VMFL 9aside tier which has allowed smaller associations with demographic challenges to continue and be competitive.
“We are trying to educate a whole new audience about this game that teaches teamwork, discipline and creates lifelong friendships,” added Parmar.
For more information on the Raiders and their programs visit www.raidersfootball.ca.