The Windsor AKO Fratmen are headed to the national championship final for the first time since 1999.
As they did then, the Fratmen will host that national final after a 34-20 win over the Hamilton Hurricanes in the Ontario Football Conference final on Sunday at Alumni Field.
“It feels really good,” AKO quarterback Brandon Reaume said. “We came in with a game plan and we knew if we executed and took care of football that we thought we were on different level than (Hamilton).
“We have the best offensive line, some of best receivers and good running backs. My job is to get them the ball.”
After a season-opening loss to Edmonton, the Fratmen reeled off nine straight wins to capture the Teddy Morris Memorial Trophy for the fourth time in the last five years and avenge last season’s championship loss to Hamilton.
“This was our redemption year,” Reaume said. “I made a promise to the guys that graduated last year that I would work hard in the off-season and we’d win the OFC and we did that. Teddy’s home for a year.”
Unlike a year ago, the Fratmen had plenty of confidence going into Sunday’s final.
“I think we’re a better team,” Fratmen head coach Mike LaChance said. “We’re bigger, we’re fast and we’re stronger.
“To be honest, last year I thought they were a better team than us, but I told the guys we didn’t need anyone to have an out-of-body experience. For the most part, we were pretty darn good.”
AKO scored the game’s first 10 points and jumped to a 24-3 lead at the half behind a trio of one-yard touchdown runs by Reaume and an Andrew Beaton field goal.
“When you can get out to an early lead, you’re not as tense,” Reaume said. “It gives you an extra confidence level.”
Running back Jakoby Jones scored on an eight-yard run and Beaton, who hit all four converts, added his second field goal of the game to close the scoring in the second half.
“We came out fired up and did some good things offensively and what we usually do on defence,” LaChance said.
The Fratmen now face the defending national champion Saskatoon Hilltops in this year’s Canadian Junior Football League final on Nov. 11.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Reaume said. “It’s been on our mind for a long time. We’ll celebrate (Sunday), but start watching game film on Monday.
FRATMEN THREE-PEAT AS OFC CHAMPIONS
Bob Duff Reports November 1, 2015
A split second after Windsor AKO Fratmen safety Tyler Story picked off Nick Gorgichuk’s desperation Hail Mary pass in the Windsor end zone as the game clock expired, pandemonium erupted among the young men dressed in black and gold.
For the third straight year, the Fratmen were Ontario Football Conference champions, and not long after, as they gathered to once again hold the Teddy Morris Memorial Trophy aloft, the chants of three-peat reached a crescendo. “The third one?” AKO quarterback Austin Lumley asked. “It’s . . . it’s . . . I can’t really explain it. I really can’t. “I’m at a loss for words.”
A 21-11 victory Sunday at Lajeunesse over the Ottawa Sooners that was probably more hard-fought that many had expected completed Windsor’s perfect 10-0 season, which is spectacular and worthy of celebration. “They’re a team full of great athletes,” Ottawa receiver Joey MacDonald said of the Fratmen. “We came in with a game plan, but their athletes, they got it done today.”
Taking an Ontario title is always a noteworthy achievement, no matter the sport. Taking three in a row is a rare accomplishment. “As an organization it’s huge, but for a personal accomplishment this is beyond words,” Lumley said. “I’m blessed to be here. I’m blessed to be part of this team.”
Winning every time they took to the field this season is also impressive, but it’s too early for the AKO to be saying goodbye. It wasn’t all that long ago – 2013 to be exact – when there were more games for them to try and win. Back then, the OFC was still part of the Canadian Junior Football League playoffs and the champions of Ontario would move on to tangle with the winners from the Prairie and B.C. Conferences.
When Windsor captured the 2013 OFC crown, the Fratmen played host to the Vancouver Island Raiders in the Jostens Cup CJFL semifinal. You might recall that things didn’t go well for the AKO in a 50-7 setback, but was that a good reason to take their ball and go home?
Granted, on top of that it hadn’t gone well for Ontario for a long time — the province had produced just one Canadian title winner since 1993 — but again, is that a good reason to give up, to throw in the towel? Especially when you take into account the one team to break that western stranglehold was the Fratmen in 1999.
It’s not fair to the players who deserve the chance to test their mettle against the country’s best junior football teams. “It would be nice to go on for a CJFL championship but I mean I’m happy with the championship here in Windsor,” AKO linebacker Dillon Grondin said.
The situation changed last season when the OFC increased its age limit from 22 to 24, which is apparently news to the OFC, which still lists its junior division age bracket as being 17-22 on the league’s web page, ofcfootball.com. The other two CJFL leagues weren’t down with this idea so the OFC is no longer allowed to compete for the national crown, which came back to bite Windsor last season, since Ontario was slated to host the national title game in 2014.
“After you win you feel like ‘if you haven’t lost yet, why stop?’” Lumley said. “But it’s what it is. “We’ll go out on a high note. We’ll remember this for the rest of our lives.”
Not getting to play for a national title in no way lessens what the Fratmen have accomplished over the past two campaigns. But the best team in Ontario should be given the chance to see how they stack up against the rest of the country.
MORENCIE BUYS FRATMEN TEAM
By Mary Caton, Windsor Star January 22, 2014
Now Mike Morencie can really say he’s done it all for the AKO Fratmen. He played for them. He’s coached them. Now he owns them. Morencie was introduced as the new owner of the Ontario Football Conference champions Wednesday at the WE-TV.ca studio in east Windsor.
The AKO Fraternity and Morencie reached a long-term agreement a few days earlier.
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed however Fraternity spokesman John Zucchet said it involved a five-figure transaction. In addition to his new duties as owner, Morencie said he’ll remain as the team’s defensive co-ordinator under head coach Mike LaChance.
“This is going to be a bit of a strange relationship but I’m 100 per cent positive we can handle it,” Morencie said.
Zucchet represented the service club at the announcement and said the club “unanimously resolved to sell the AKO football club.” Zucchet served as AKO’s director of football operations last season but said he’s now the spokesman for the fraternity’s board of governors. “We are still a sponsor of the AKO football club,” Zucchet said. “We have every intention of maintaining a strong relationship with the team.” Zucchet said the fraternity will refocus on its “core mission” of helping community youth through a variety of minor sports programs.
Morencie said buying the club is “an easier way to be successful. We’re going to run it like a business. The not-for-profit model ceased to work for us.” Morencie plans to assemble a management team and start searching for investors both individual and corporate. He hopes to add a director of football operations, a director of administration and a general manager in the near future.
Morencie said the team’s operating budget in 2013 was $55,000. By comparison, the budget for the Vancouver Island Raiders, who trounced AKO 50-3 in the Jostens Cup playoff at Windsor Stadium last fall, is approximately $500,000. “We’re tired of getting beaten down by that (Western) model,” Morencie said. “We are in the business of trying to and working towards winning national championships.”
LaChance admits the new order is a tad unusual. “Having the owner work under me, that’s a little different,” he said. “There’s a hierarchy. On the field, I’ll be in charge. Off the field, it’s him being in charge.”