For the first time since the 2019 season, the Ottawa Sooners hit the field in Canadian Junior Football League action, taking on the London Beefeaters. The Beefeaters spoiled the Sooners’ homecoming, winning 42-14, never looking back after scoring a touchdown on the opening kickoff of the game.
The game wasn’t without highlights for the Sooners, however. They scored their first two touchdowns of the season, they blocked a punt, the defence (although London scored 42 points) was spectacular, and defensive back Kurric Alphonse (who is playing a new position) picked off two passes in the first half of the game.
“I have never played defensive back before,” Alphonse said. “I’m just getting into the motions of things. Today was a good performance, and I’m going to try to keep it up for week two and the rest of the season.”
“Our team really had a good performance regardless of the score. We came, we balled out, we had a dog fight, and we’ll come back for week two. Week one wasn’t what we wanted, but in week two, we’re going to come back bigger and better.”
The Sooners are making their return to the league under new ownership, thanks to Kevin Ling, who has also taken over head coaching and general manager duties for the team. He’s encouraged by his team’s performance in their first game, and expects things to get better as the season rolls forward.
“The score doesn’t reflect what we did here today,” said Ling. “We’ve had a long bit of work over the past few months. When I had to make a change and become the head coach, that was something we didn’t expect, but it needed to happen because I believe in these guys and I know that they worked hard, and I know that we had a good opportunity for this game. We had a few mistakes, and those mistakes cost us points on the board.”
“I’m happy that we had this game for our first game because now we know what we need to do, and we know what we are going to be looking at when we play them again, and that’s what we are going to focus on. We’re going to make sure that game after game, we are going to fix what we did wrong, and we are going to focus on expanding on what we did right.”
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The return to football is meaningful to the players, and Alphonse is no exception. He played with the Sooners before their hiatus, and now that he has the chance to put the pads on once again, he’s loving every moment of it.
“I played for the Sooners right before COVID, and not having football for two years kinda sucked, but now that we are back, we have a great team and great chemistry, and I’m so happy to be back on the field.”
The highlight of the day for the Sooners was consistently the defensive unit. They held Ottawa in the game, and forced London to kick the ball away more often than not. This isn’t coming as a shock to anyone wearing orange and black, however.
“Our defence is lockdown,” Alphonse said. “Any teams that play us, I feel back for their offence, because our defence is amazing. From our linebackers, to our linebackers, to our corners, it’s straight straps.”
“Oh, no,” Ling said when asked if he was surprised about his team’s defensive performance. “From a defensive perspective, that has been my piece and I have been putting my nose into everything also being the team owner and general manager. Now that we have seen where we are and the talent that we have, I wasn’t surprised at how our guys played, I was surprised at some of the chances we missed which we want to make sure doesn’t happen again, but at the end of the day, I’m proud of these guys. They did a really good job at getting back on the field after two years of being off of it.”
The Sooners haven’t been at this for all that long, and they haven’t had too much time to get prepared, but Alphonse is relishing the opportunity to get on the field with his new teammates.
“I don’t really see it as a difficulty, I see it as an opportunity to build on our comradery,” Alphonse said. “We have a lot of good guys on the team, a lot of guys who are a bunch of jokesters, so I’m sure that our trips are going to bring us together as a team.”
The Sooners won’t wait long for their next game, hosting the GTA Grizzlies at MNP Park on Carleton University’s campus on Saturday at 1 p.m.
“We’re ready to go,” Alphonse said. “The score wasn’t what we wanted, but we set the tone for our team. We have a lot of practice to do, but we are coming back hot next week.”
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