The College Avenue Knights are undefeated early in the TVRA Varsity Division season
Ingersoll District Collegiate Institute Blue Bombers running back Logan Johnston, centre, gets tackled by two CASS Knights in Woodstock, Ont. on Thursday October 5, 2017 at College Avenue Secondary School during their TVRA Varsity football game. CASS won 44-0. Greg Colgan/Woodstock Sentinel-Review/Postmedia Network. CASS won 44-0. Greg Colgan/Woodstock Sentinel-Review/Postmedia Network
The College Avenue Knights entered the TVRA varsity football season with a chance to repeat as champions.
Through their first two games of the season, they’ve done little to raise doubt.
The Knights began with a 13-7 win over London’s Montcalm and beat Ingersoll District Collegiate Institute 44-0 Thursday in the team’s home opener. The two wins carry the Knights win streak to eight games, dating back to last season, which also includes the school’s 29-21 varsity final win over St. Thomas’ Central Elgin last November.
“We were prepared. We know they’re a big team and we wanted to get up early. We did that with an 80-yard run by Roje (Anderson). Once we had that, we were able to cycle through all our players,” CASS head coach Ryan Stafford said. “We had everyone firing and the backups got in. It was a great game. There’s a couple of mistakes to look at for practice, but we’re looking forward to next week with Strathroy (District Collegiate Institute).”
The Knights opened with a running touchdown by Anderson and continued with two touchdowns from Jordan Bahnuk as well as a passing and rushing touchdown from Bryce Prust. Aaron Dewhurst added a pick-six off an interception and the Knights added a field goal.
The early advantage allowed CASS to cycle through their bench to get backups playing time and avoid potential costly injuries to starters early in the season.
“Once we know we’ve got it, we can play all the guys since it helps the program,” Prust said. “It sucks for the starters since we just want to go on every play. I understand why we do it. We can see little things we can improve on to get ready for next week.”
With the varsity division down to three teams for the season, the teams have also played senior teams out of the TVRA Central Division for exhibitions.
CASS met Tillsonburg’s Glendale two weeks ago and also Caledonia’s MacKinnon Park before their regular season began. They face Strathroy District Collegiate Institute next week.
“It gets us ready for these games and for whatever comes next for us,” Bahnuk said. “We’re starting to gel as a team. We had issues against MacKinnion Park. We could’ve won that game, but it gets us ready for our league games plus challenges us if we jump up to the London league next year.”
In recent seasons, the varsity league - once the largest of any TVRA division - has been in flux as teams have left for the junior and senior ranks or folded their programs.
West Elgin closed their program in 2012, while Holy Cross folded in 2013 and St. Thomas’ Arthur Voaden followed suit in 2015 with London’s Westminster stopping their team in 2016. Glendale returned to junior and senior teams in 2016.
This past season saw Central Elgin and Huron Park take a year hiatus, leaving CASS, IDCI and Montcalm as the remaining teams. The potential for teams joining varsity is always there, but Stafford said CASS is planning to move into junior and senior football with the team needing at least 24 for each squad.
The Woodstock Minor Football Association has also grown in recent years, beginning their first travel season in the Ontario Football League with two teams. As the sport’s grown in the area and recent success at the high school level could return junior and senior football to the region for the first time in nearly 10 years.
“A lot of schools don’t have the numbers or coaches. We’re lucky we’ve got players and staff for it,” he said. “We’re passionate for the game and we can compete with any team in London. We’re excited for the opportunity if we join next year and we’re excited to show them what we’ve got.
“Winning a championship is what we know now and what we hope to do for many years to come,” he added.