Interlake Thunder president Mitch Obach wants to create more seasons similar to the one his midget team had last fall.
As head coach, Obach led the Thunder to an undefeated inaugural season in the nine-man Rural Manitoba Football League, winning the title game 42-20 over the Swan Valley Tigers at Stonewall Collegiate Institute on Nov. 10. For Obach, the championship win was a long time coming for him personally.
“It’s the first time in over a dozen years coaching and even before that playing that I’ve ever been a part of a team that went undefeated. Everyone that was involved have to forever be proud of what they have accomplished,” Obach said to The Interlake Spectator. “Most of our athletes were in Grade 10 or 11. We’re optimistic almost all will be back again next year.”
Unlike the midget team, girls’ football won’t be back for the most part in 2019. Low player numbers means there will be no Interlake senior girls squad this season, while the junior girls have merged with the St. James Rods. The combined team will play their home games at Rods Field and will play their season-opener on May 9 against the East Side Eagles at Valley Gardens Community Club in Winnipeg.
“We’re hopeful that in 2020, (the senior team) can get back on the field,” Obach said. “(The junior girls are) going to wear each uniform. Some games we’ll wear one; some will wear the other. It’s pretty much about a split team where players and coaches are from, too … We’ll work together and hope those girls will have a good season.”
Obach has noticed that registration numbers for minor football have been on the decline across the province and the Thunder is trying to reverse the trend. On April 28, the Thunder will host a one-day Try Football For Free camp at SCI from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. The camp invites youth aged eight to 15 to try out the sport and are only needed to bring workout clothing and a water bottle.
“It’s non-contact … We’ll kind of teach you through the basics. We’ll have some of the midget coaches and players helping out on the field. We’re kind of focused on the younger ones who never had a shot at it before. Maybe they’ll see football as something they want to try,” Obach said.
Interlake plans on fielding teams at the cruncher, atom and peewee levels, and despite the threat of fewer players in the program, Obach said there are enough volunteers and coaches to keep the program strong.
“Things are positive. Even though numbers took a dip across the province, we felt like the club has weathered the storm and we feel we can bring those numbers up going forward,” he said.
Player registration will take place at the Try Football For Free event, as well as Gimli High School on May 1 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., École Selkirk Junior High on May 2 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and at the Ice Palace in Stonewall on May 4 from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.