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Junior football's 'back in grey'

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There were many firsts Thursday afternoon in Glendale's return to junior football.

First completed pass since 2012, first touchdown... and more. After three undefeated TVRA varsity seasons, the junior Gemini started from the ground up with a team almost entirely rookies.

"We came out not too sharp, but as the game went on we did better," said Gemini receiver Raine Steadman after a 42-12 loss to London's Clarke Road.

"Our defence did really good, and our offence we did pretty good too, but we just couldn't get the touchdowns we needed."

Steadman caught the longest pass of the day - in the range of 30 yards - thrown by quarterback Riley Balazs in the second half, with an extra 20-30 yards sprinting down the sideline. Steadman, who lined up wide right, glanced around in full stride and saw the ball in his peripheral, turned and caught the perfectly thrown ball. He had a five-yard lead on his Clarke Road defender, but didn't win the foot race.

"I think he dove at my ankles," said Steadman. "I don't really know, I kind of stumbled."

Steadman also scored the teams' first touchdown late in the first quarter, cutting Clarke Road's lead to 14-6.

"I went straight and cut in to the post, and I jumped up and caught it. Then I just ran," said Steadman, estimating it to be a 20-30 yarder.

Going forward, Steadman said Glendale's goal is to 'play well as a team.'

"We need to talk, communicate, and just play harder."

"I thought we played pretty good for our first game - we did pretty well actually," said Balazs after handing his jersey over to a senior player - only one set of football jerseys had arrived in time for Thursday's opener, so the juniors had borrowed the 'greys' from the seniors. "Everyone did their job.

"That was only our first game together this year, and I think they have a little more experience than we do," said Balazs, figuring they matched up well size-wise. "We just need more practice. A couple more games, maybe, and we should be just as good as anybody else."

AJ Vanhaelewyn struck for Glendale's second touchdown at 7:11 of the fourth quarter, finding running room on the left side.

"It was a good toss from Riley - he had been playing good all game," said Vanhaelewyn. "I knew a couple people were coming after me, and Chris Bradfield blocked them off for me."

Like Balazs, Vanhaelewyn is confident the team will continue to improve.

"At the beginning when we started practices, we weren't really sure if we were going to win," said Vanhaelewyn, who along with Balazs - and many other juniors - signed up for football after it was announced Glendale would have a junior team. "And it turned out pretty well actually at the end - it was exciting.

"It was a little wet today, we could have done better. They're running back was pretty fast. Next time," said Vanhaelewyn.

"We've had our first game, now we kind of know what it's like. And after this week of practice, it (the offence) will probably be better - and ready.

Steadman was one of the juniors who had signed up for varsity football, but knew the odds of starting were not good as a Grade 10 athlete.

"Not yet," Steadman smiled.

Leaving varsity opened doors for himself and the rest of the juniors.

"It makes you feel confident in yourself."

Clarke Road's seniors won the second half of the junior-senior double-header, 31-10 after leading 10-2 after two quarters.

The Gemini are back in action Thursday, Oct. 6 hosting Lucas for a 1 & 3 p.m. double-header at Glendale.

cabbott@postmedia.com

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