The Interlake Thunder Crunchers youth football team played against the Greendell Falcons in Winnipeg on Sept. 8. The Interlake Thunder football program doesn’t keep score in the cruncher division. The cruncher program simply provides boys aged eight and nine with the opportunity to play tackle football. They won’t keep score until they reach the Atom division.
With players coming from all over the Interlake, one of the team’s coach’s, Gord Noren, told The Interlake Spectator on Sept. 11 that the camaraderie and the friendships that have been built can really be seen in their practice. Team-members travel from St. Laurent, Warren, Stonewall, St. Andrews and Teulon to practice at Stonewall Collegiate, weekly.
Noren, who brings his 8-year-old son to play on the team, is from Warren. He said he enjoys watching the boys making friends on the field.
“Practice has been really good, the boys have been learning lots. They’ve been really engaged. From the beginning of the season, to where they are now is just like night and day,” Noren said.
According to the Manitoba Minor Football Association, the cruncher division is intended to introduce its youngest players to the game in a safe and fun environment. Players learn the fundamental skills required to progress through the older age groups. For many, this is their first exposure to true teamwork and cooperation which helps prepare them for many future activities they encounter.
“They’re all comfortable together. You see two boys who never knew each other before at the beginning of practice pairing up and playing together, which is all we want to see,” Noren explained. “We want to see everyone grow in their practice and we want to see everyone grow and get better.”
The Interlake Thunder were slated to play as a part of the Banjo Bowl festivities on Sept. 8, during the pregame, according to Noren. Instead, they were simply invited to come to watch the Bombers versus the Roughriders.
“The MMFA lets every cruncher team play at the Bomber Games,” Noren explained on Aug. 20.
They will be playing as part of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ pregame at Investors Group Field just after the Bombers’ pre-game warm-up on Sept. 21. The Bombers will be facing the Montreal Alouettes.
“I haven’t got word yet from the Bombers. Usually, they play right after warm-up, so the Bombers and the Alouettes will warm up. Then the boys will go out and play for 10 or 15 minutes. It’s just a quick game,” Noren said on Sept. 11. “It will be fun. We’ll bring them on the sidelines and a lot of times, Buzz and Boomer will be there to high five the kids.”
“It’s a great experience,” Noren said on Aug. 20. “Last year they got to meet some of the officials and they get to play on the big field in front of 30,000 people.”
The Interlake Thunder football program lost two teams this year due to lack of registrations, Noren said on Aug. 20.
“The kids that did register for the Atom team ended up joining the St. James Rods and I’m not sure where the Peewee team went,” he explained.
“We’d like to keep football in the community for kids to play because it is a fun sport, the kids love it, and we’d hate to see it go away because we can’t get enough kids,” he explained. “Last year (our Crunchers) started off with six kids and we ended up with 10. This year, we had 14 register, so our younger age group is expanding and hopefully, that will continue on so that we can keep having football in the Interlake for kids that do want to play.”
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