Newmarket’s Huron Heights Secondary School senior football head coach Heath Weir said getting to the top of high school football has been a long time coming.
After months of training and victories, the Warriors capped off their season Nov. 30 with a 14-6 win over the No. 1 rated St. Thomas More Knights from Hamilton, taking the spot for themselves and earning a provincial banner. Since then, the team has been showered with accolades, messages from political officials and a town rally Dec. 11.
“It’s been fantastic,” Weir said. “It makes them feel great, especially in the past 20 months or so of COVID where people were hidden away and probably felt — especially the kids — underappreciated.”
Canada Football Chat, a recognized source for amateur football rankings and recruitment, was one of the sources that bestowed the No. 1 ranking. The title is only quasi-official given a lack of inter-provincial play. But after a multi-year run of success, Huron Heights had climbed up to the No. 2 slot, taking over No. 1 with its last win this year and a 10-1 season overall.
“The story has been written over a long period of time for the Warriors who’ve been building a reputation as one of the best programs in Canada,” Canada Football Chat said in its Dec. 8 ranking update.
The achievement has earned the team plenty of recognition, including from local politicians, Premier Doug Ford and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“The Huron Heights Warriors built themselves into a premier high school football program in Canada,” Trudeau said in a message to the team. “While the pandemic is a challenging time for all Canadians, it is because of the strong spirit of resiliency of Canadians, like the players and coaches of the Huron Heights Warriors, which make our country so great.”
"Way to go, Warriors," Doug Ford said in a video message, adding an invitation to visit him at Queen's Park. "Congratulations to one of the best, well-organized football programs in the entire country."
Weir attributed the team’s success to preparation. Even when not playing, the team runs an off-season training program, something he said players carried on at home amidst the pandemic.
“Our guys continued to grind. They pushed through,” he said. “We were more ready, I think, than the majority of teams were at the beginning.”
Weir said the team has reached the top after a 17-year effort, with a run that saw the team earn multiple regional and provincial titles. Having coached it since 2004, he said the program has become a community, with families and ex-players helping.
“It’s bigger than any one player. It’s bigger than any one coach,” he said. "You want to be part of something bigger than yourself. You want to be part of that great big Warriors family that we have now.”
He added thanks to his fellow coaches, Alex Paterson, Richard Beckstead and Bryan Dunjko, for their contributions.
The team is off for now but will not rest for long, getting into its off-season training regime in the new year.
“This is kind of like climbing the mountain and finally, the stars align,” he said. “That was the easy part. Staying where we are now is going to be the tough part.”