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Last ones standing: Huron Heights football takes on region rival

Team to play against in-region opponent for first time in five years on Friday, Oct. 14
The Huron Heights Warriors are preparing to face a York Region opponent for the first time in five years.

High school junior quarterback Aiden Brooks is getting ready for a regional matchup unplayed in five years. 

Last season, he played for Newmarket’s esteemed Huron Heights Warriors, a team that became the No. 1-ranked program in Canada. But now he is gearing up to play against his former teammates as a member of Markham's Bill Crothers Secondary School Colts. 

“A little nervous, but I’m also excited. I know all of those guys,” he said. “It’s going to be a good one. It's going to be a high pace and going to be a well-fought game.” 

The lone two teams playing in the public district in York Region will face off for the first time in five years Oct. 14, with both junior and senior squads. 

This will be the first time since 2017 that Huron Heights has played against any other teams in York Region, with many local area high school football programs folding over the years.

“It will be very competitive,” Huron Heights coach Heath Weir said. “It will be a tough go … Being the only two teams in the region, there’s a natural rivalry within the region, just being we’re the last two left standing.” 

Whereas Newmarket’s program has soared to a new height, Bill Crothers Colts junior football coach Andrew Gouge said their program has been recovering well from the pandemic, however, it made for a hard couple of years. 

He said program interest also waned in 2019, but they have been able to rebound the past couple of seasons to have full junior and senior teams again this year.

“Things are looking good right now, that’s for sure, and we're really excited.” 

Football in the region has gone through a hard stretch over several years, with the decline in teams. Besides the two, only Vaughan’s Woodbridge College has a team, but they play in another league. 

Gouge said in 2009, there were double-digit high school football teams in the region. 

“It’s the nature of football in southern Ontario, to be honest,” he said “There's less and fewer high schools offering football."

But he said that after many sports were sidelined due to pandemic public health measures, more kids are raring to get back into it.

“There’s a renewed appreciation of being able to play. I don’t think we realize how much we appreciate something until it’s taken away.”

Coaches retiring have been a substantive part of programs fading, Weir said. But he added that Bill Crothers, designed as a specialized athletics school by York Region District School Board, has also become a centralized gathering point for athletes who may have been able to help football teams elsewhere. 

“It’s attracted a number of the kids in the south-end (of the region), which then takes away from other high schools,” Weir said.

But he added there is a bit of a re-emergence of the sport, between Bill Crothers expanding its program and Woodbridge College. Community teams have also had increased participation too, he said.

“That’s a good thing. Now, it’s can another high school return? Will somebody else bring football back in the region?” 

Brooks said it has been great joining the Bill Crothers program, and he was attracted to its positive reputation and facilities.

But he said Huron has also always had a strong program.

“Both teams are solid teams that have been known in York Region,” he said. “They’re both looking to play each other.” 

The teams will square off Friday, Oct. 14, with the Huron Heights Warriors making it a homecoming event. The juniors will play at 12:30 p.m. and the seniors at 3 p.m. at 40 Huron Heights Dr.