That’s due to a series of age-group changes mandated by Football Canada, which will eliminate the three-year age gap that some divisions had in place.
The new age classes – U10 for ages 8 and 9, U12 for ages 10 and 11 and U14 for ages 12 and 13 – are designed to change the size and maturity discrepancy that often cropped up with the three-year age gaps.
“You think about it, with the way it was you could have a 15-year-old who’s about to take his learner’s out there against a kid who just turned 13,” said MJMFL president Scott Montgomery. “It’s not just the physical difference, it’s the mentality, too. A lot of the time it’s not even close.”
The new divisions come with a couple of drawbacks at both ends of the age scale – seven-year-olds will no longer be able to play, and 14-year-olds in Grade 9 will now be the responsibility of their high school teams.
Even with those losses, registration numbers are still solid for the league, with around 170 players. Montgomery expects that number could even increase once school starts and word gets around about the new season.
“We saw a really big increase in 8-9s, so if that’s the case, then moving forward we’re going to be in real good shape,” Montgomery said. “There might be some kids out there who were still on holidays and we usually get a few when school starts anyways. And maybe a parent who was a little leery about their kid playing kids two years older, now it’s ‘hey, it’s not too bad’.”
The 12U loop will also see the addition of a new out-of-town team, with Moosomin signing on and increasing the league to six teams – the Moose Jaw Lions and Spartans, Assiniboia Rockets, Estevan Chargers and Weyburn Eagles along with the Moosomin Generals.
The 14U league will feature the Moose Jaw Raiders, Razorbacks and Vikings, Weyburn Falcons and Ravens, Assiniboia Rockets and Estevan Oilers.
Action kicks off with the traditional opening weekend barbecue on Saturday, with all proceeds going to support MJMFL. The event will include prize giveaways, including an autographed Gene Makowsky jersey.
The slate of games will start with the U12 division, with Assiniboia taking on the Lions at 10 a.m. and Estevan facing the Chargers at 12 p.m.
The U14 division kicks off at 2 p.m. with Estevan facing the Razorbacks, followed by the Ravens and Vikings at 4 p.m. and Falcons vs. Raiders at 6 p.m.
Each team will play each other once, with five games plus playoffs in the U12 division and six games in the U14 division, with the final day of the regular season on Oct. 6.