QB Cleo Lemon eyes an open Chad Owens running an in-route.  Owens is second on the team in receiving yards through week 11.

Argos practise on high school soil

QB Cleo Lemon eyes an open Chad Owens running an in-route. Owens is second on the team in receiving yards with 401 through week 11. (Ryan Jhagroo/Toronto Observer)

The Toronto Argonauts ran through offensive and defensive drills as usual, but the field was a little different.

For the first time ever, the Argos took to the gridiron in Scarborough on Wednesday.

Coaches and players ran plays at Sir Robert L. Borden Business Technical Institute’s football field to mark the return of high school football to three Toronto-area high schools.

Along with Sir Robert L. Borden B.T.I., Downsview Secondary School and Thistletown Collegiate Institute will each receive a $10,000 donation for the 2010 season.

“In the Toronto area, we lost a lot of schools that did have football.  So the lifeblood of the CFL and the universities is the amount of kids that are playing and this is a great opportunity for us to help,” said Argos General Manager and Vice President Adam Rita.

The $10,000 will go a long way to ensuring a revitalized football program, said Borden head coach Martin Douglas.

“It’s one of the reasons football has dropped off the circuit, because of how expensive it can be.”

The outlook for Toronto high school football was bleak before the donations, said Thistletown C.I. head coach Keith Hoare.  “We’ve got better infrastructure.  It’s very tough to get funding from schools, for football and other extra-curricular sports activities.”

“It’s been close to 20 years, since not having a team,” Thistletown running back Tristan Jones said.

“It feels great to be one of the people to start the team back, great for the student population and the community.  Now people in the area can come out and see the football games,” Jones said.

While Rita, Douglas and Hoare agree the spirit and passion for Toronto high school football isn’t at the level of their American counterparts, they also agree that dedicated athletic programs are a step towards that goal.

In total, TDSB high school football will receive $80,000 as part of a mentorship and funding program entitled Level The Playing Field, a partnership between The Argos Foundation, the Toronto District School Board, and the Toronto Foundation for student success.

Last year, the program helped aid the return of four TDSB high school football teams.

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