IF you're a fan of crosstown rivalries - and really, who isn't a fan of cross-town rivalries - high school football on the North Shore just got a lot more intriguing.
A pair of teams have shifted into new spots this season, creating a new AA division that will see four North Vancouver teams all battling for playoff position against each other.
The old standbys Handsworth and Windsor have played in the B.C. AA western conference for several seasons while Carson Graham and West Vancouver have battled at the AAA level. This season, due to changes in enrolment numbers, Carson Graham is dropping down to AA to join their North Vancouver friends. The fourth team joining the party is Argyle, the new kid on the block. The Pipers resurrected their football program last year, playing one season in the tier 2 developmental league. This year they're being bumped up to AA, thrown into the hornet's nest of a suddenly super-local football league.
The change has some North Shore football folks pumped up about the 2012 season.
"I think it's fantastic, I'm super excited," said Handsworth head coach Jay Prepchuk.
"I remember when I was playing high school football at Handsworth and we had the North Shore league. It was great. . . . It kind of gets back to the old days. We used to play big doubleheaders, or tripleheaders even, at Empire Stadium. Everyone would pack in there and we'd have some great rivalry games."
Seeing more North Shore teams on the schedule will be good for the teams and for the fans, said Prepchuk.
"I think people would rather come see us play Carson Graham and Argyle than see us play someone like Rick Hansen." The division also includes Vancouver Island teams Nanaimo, Ballenas and John Barsby. The seven teams will compete for four playoff spots.
Handsworth and Carson Graham already meet every year in the Buchanan Bowl but this year's game, scheduled for Sept. 29, will have the added intensity of being a regular season game with playoff implications rather than just an exhibition.
With some rivalries like Handsworth vs. Carson Graham already established, Argyle co-head coach Dave Heskin is curious about where his Pipers will fit in.
"It's going to be interesting to see who we tag up against," said Heskin, who has teamed with fellow co-head coach Milan Boljuncic to help start the Argyle program. "Something is going to go down in the weeks to come or the years to come that's just going to be this constant battle against one team. Maybe it's going to be the ArgyleWindsor battle."
Before they can worry about who they hate the most, however, the Pipers have bigger problems to solve. Problem number 1 is getting their very green club up to speed so that they can compete with the wellestablished teams at Carson, Handsworth and Windsor that have had consistent programs and coaches for decades.
"History is not on our side at the moment," said Heskin. "We're just going to go through the lumps and bumps of a developing program for the first little bit. . . . Moving up to the AA ranks is a challenge but we're willing to step in there with them and give it a go."
Prepchuk has even bigger dreams for North Shore football with Argyle joining the league and Sentinel set to come on board with a senior team in 2013.
"I just think it's fantastic for football on the North Shore that we can do this and get these programs started again. Hopefully there'll be other schools," he said, adding that he'd love to see programs running at schools like Seycove and Sutherland as well. Even West Van, currently marooned as the only AAA team left on the North Shore, could join a joint league if the right adjustments are made, said Prepchuk.
The growth of the sport indicates that there are a lot of volunteers putting in the time to get these programs rolling, the coach said.
"There are a lot of really dedicated coaches," said Prepchuk. "Sometimes people forget that they're all volunteers. There are a lot of people who contribute to making a football program happen."
. . .
Argyle students and fans will get their first look at their new team and new field when the Pipers host Nanaimo in the first home game Friday, Sept. 21 at 3: 30 p.m. Carson Graham will also be at home next Friday when they host Barsby with a 3: 30 p.m. kickoff. For complete schedules and standings go to www.bchighschoolfootball. com.