St. Mary, Carlton to join North Sask. Football League this fall.

Herald File Photo. The St. Mary Marauders and Carlton Crusaders line up for a snap during the Canadian Tire Classic last fall.

When the Carlton Crusaders and St. Mary Marauders hit the gridiron this fall, they will be competing in the inaugural season of the North Saskatchewan Football League (NSFL)

Instead of competing in the Saskatoon Secondary School Athletic Directorate (SSSAD), the Crusader and Marauder program will be joining the new five team NSFL.

St. Mary, Carlton, Lloydminster Comprehensive, North Battleford and Martensville will combine to make up the new league that will compete in the 5A classification provincially.

Carlton Crusaders head coach Lindsay Strachan says he is looking forward to Carlton competing against new programs.

“It’s always exciting to see new faces and even in SSSAD, I was excited to get matchups with teams that maybe you don’t always see.

“I mean it is football. The film will always tell the tale, so we’ll be breaking down lots of film in order to get prepared to see some new faces and it’s exciting to get to compete against some different teams.”

So far, Strachan says the atmosphere amongst coaches in the NSFL has been very positive working towards the first season of the new league.

“It creates a league of programs that face similar realities in what it means to put football teams on the field in communities that are smaller. So, I’m excited to work with similar minded groups in that respect.”

In previous years competing in the SSSAD, both Carlton and St. Mary competed in the 6A classification and had to face perennial powerhouses such as St. Joseph and Holy Cross.

Strachan says with the new league, it will provide his team the opportunity to compete for a provincial title.

“We will have the opportunity with the 5A classification in years that you feel that you’ve got a really strong group to have a legitimate chance to compete for a provincial title which is, is really exciting.”

The idea of the NSFL is far from a new concept. St. Mary Marauder head coach Curt Hundeby says he wasn’t sure the league would ever come to fruition, but he is excited about the opportunity.

“There’s some of us that have pondered this idea for years thinking that it wasn’t likely a reality ever. Now all of a sudden it’s on our doorstep (and) we’ve got to make the most of this opportunity. You can legitimately talk to a talented group of kids in your locker room and say, ‘if you guys really work hard and come together as a team and start reaching for your potential, we could be a provincial championship team.’”

Hundeby says he expects the NSFL to feature a high level of competition.

“I really think it’s going to be a competitive league. My guess is all five teams are going to be competitive, so, every week there’s no predicted blowouts in any fashion, up or down. At least there shouldn’t be. Anytime you have a league structure that’s going to look like that, I think it is going to be a real advantage. It’s going to be who can do the best job of preparing and who is on that day and who makes the best adjustments.”

The fall 2023 schedule of the NSFL has not yet been announced. Teams will also play exhibition contests against SSSAD opponents to fill out the schedule.