Despite the cold wind and a light, rainy drizzle, scores of young women in Sudbury hit the turf at James Jerome Field on May 16 for the second annual all-girls full tackle football game between the Bears of St. Benedict Catholic Secondary School of Sudbury and the Lions of St. Mark Catholic High School of Manotick, near Ottawa.
With all the grunting, sweating and clash of pads of helmets, the event was to highlight once again that secondary school females are fully capable of playing full tackle football, just as boys have been doing for decades.
Well-known Sudbury head-coach Kim "Junior" Labrosse said this year's game was a rematch from last May when St. Benedict hosted St. Mark for the first time in Sudbury.
"Last year was the first high school girls football game in Canadian history between us and St. Mark's. And this year we're following through," said Labrosse.
He said the reason the St. Mark Lions travelled all the way to Sudbury is because there are so few female high-school football teams anywhere in Ontario. Labrosse said that needs to change.
"I'm hoping after this year that more schools are coming because I think these girls need that opportunity to kind of thrive,” said Labrosse.
He said football is a popular team sport that goes beyond being a game.
"Football teaches leadership skills, work ethic, teamwork, all that stuff, right. So I'm hoping that next year, there'll be more schools in Sudbury that will jump on board."
Labrosse said he is confident there is no shortage of talent among the secondary schools across Sudbury.
"Just look at St. Benedict's; we're one of the smaller high schools that has a football team," he said.
"And I have 65 girls on my roster. So schools like St. Charles that have over 1,000 students, Lo-Ellen, Lively and all the schools I need that have football teams should have no issues fielding a girls team," said Labrosse.
Tuesday's match up was another win for the St. Mark Lions — 25 to 19 — the team also defeated St. Ben's last year.
The loss aside, Labrosse said he is optimistic about the future of tackle football for female students.
"But right now we have Ottawa. Toronto had their first girls team this year. So it's showing some growth at the high school level, which is good."
Len Gillis is a reporter at Sudbury.com.