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Posted on Thu, Aug 29, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

Canadians invade America for first week of Beat Pete football picks

By Pete Cunningham


Saline is one of two Washtenaw County teams playing against Canadian teams in Week 1.

Someone please help me out here. Last time I checked, this was the United States of America, correct? Hot dogs, baseball, county fair tractor pulls -- we pretty much have set the gold standard on these things, am I wrong?

And when it comes to high school football, it’s an outright monopoly, right?

Then what in the name of Wayne Gretzky are two of Washtenaw County’s 12 high school football teams doing playing Canadian teams in their Week 1 openers? Saline is hosting A.B. Lucas Secondary School, a team from London, Ontario, and Huron is hosting Vincent Massey Secondary School, a team from just across the tunnel in Windsor.

We’ll get to year three of the “Beat Pete” picks in a minute, first let me try and wrap my head around this Canadian invasion.

I went to college…er University in Canada, so it is with a certain amount of shame that I admit to being very familiar with the rules of Canadian football. There are 12 players to a side, which actually isn’t that ridiculous considering the field is roughly a kilometer long and wide with an end zone the size of Newfoundland. Said end zone has the uprights in the front.

That’s not a typo. A 20-meter post route in which the goalpost is used for a basketball-style pick is feasible GOAL LINE play in Canadian football.

Cue the Yackety Sax.

Like arena football, receivers are allowed running starts before the snap, and like the third circle of hell, there are only three downs.

There’s also a peculiar way to score a single point, known as a “rouge” in the Great White North. If the ball is kicked out of the end zone - be it on a punt, field goal attempt or kickoff - a team is awarded a rouge. This means no touchbacks.

Here is a brief rouge tutorial:

In 2003, Adrian played a Canadian team in its opener and a player - apparently very excited at the prospect of a touchback - ran backwards into the end zone and downed the ball thinking he would be awarded with a free trip to the 20-yard line.

Here is the Adrian Daily Telegram’s description of that ridiculous series of events from the August 30, 2003 edition. Thank you to our friends at the Telegram for passing this along and thank you to my younger brother for remembering reading this article like it was yesterday:

“The Lions’ unfamiliarity with American football came into play on the ensuing kickoff as their return man fielded the ball at the two, but went back into the end zone and downed the ball for a safety.”

Accidental safeties and third down punts aside, Saline coach Joe Palka explained that A.B. Lucas is somewhat of an Ontario powerhouse - Stanford tight end Alex Frkovic is a notable alumnus. Just as teams in weak conferences seek out challenges for their nonconference schedule here on the correct side of the Detroit River, Lucas tries to play an American squad every year.

“They won’t play good teams during the regular season, so their coach tries to prepare them for the playoffs by playing an American team early,” said Palka, whose Toledo Whitmer team played Lucas in 2011.

“In 2011, I thought they would have been in the upper half of our conference,” Palka said.

While Palka said he’s entertained the thought of making a trip to Ontario for a scrimmage under Canadian rules, both sides would rather the actual games be played in the good ole U-S of-A. This is because Canadian high schools often play their games right after school in broad daylight with little to no fan fare.

Just how Benedict Arnold would have envisioned it.

“We try to get as many home games as we can, and they want to get that Friday night experience,” said Palka.

Now that we know exactly why all these Canadians will be in our midst this weekend, let’s get started with this week’s “Beat Pete” picks.

Remember to visit where you can make your own predictions and try to “Beat Pete.” Those who actually “Beat Pete” will be recognized in next week’s edition. One winner will be selected at random to receive a prize. Still working on what that prize will be, but trust me…it will be sweet.

Be sure to get your picks in early this week as there are several Thursday night games on the schedule.

Pete Cunningham covers sports for He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @petcunningham.


Pete Cunningham

Fri, Aug 30, 2013 : 4:54 p.m.

If your late on filling out picks ans still want to play, I'll spot you the skyline and Fgr wins.


Fri, Aug 30, 2013 : 2 a.m.

100% Canadian hear but once a HORNET always a Hornet and i'm going with my highschool Saline to win big!!! Huron well I think its going to be another tough season Windsor to win in a squeaker.

Richard Retyi

Thu, Aug 29, 2013 : 3:19 p.m.

I can speak with some authority on Canadian high school football and what it's like to play south of the border on the American gridiron. First, let's step into the time machine and travel back to 1990 when I started my high school football career at a school in Ontario called Notre Dame. This was back when Ontario high schools went up to grade 13 (I won't bore you with why) but I played five years as a linebacker and offensive guard, playing right after school (that part is true), to crowds in excess of 30, on a field lined with no numbers and without a scoreboard (a kid with a red flag would hold it up when there were two minutes left in each quarter). My Can-Am rivalry story was when we traveled somewhere into Pennsylvania to take on a team in the pre-season. I was in 11th grade and this was my first time playing in a venue with permanent seating, with a band, a public address announcer and fans. We even had those little phones on the sideline that you use to talk to people up in the booth (in the infinite wisdom of our team, no one told me that we'd be using this phone and the person they put up in the booth was someone I'd never met before). We got smoked. We weren't a really great team and we were used to playing squads who ran 80% of the time, not this pass-oriented Pennsylvania team. We were down early and down big and our hosts put in their JV squad and still we had our hands full. Not much else remains in my memory banks. I was concussed in the third quarter and teammates were assigned wake-up duty for our entire 4+-hour bus ride home to make sure I didn't fall asleep. There was talk of going back the next year, but those plans mercifully fizzled. So what I'm trying to say is GO CANADA! AVENGE ME!


Thu, Aug 29, 2013 : 4:32 p.m.

Good one Richard... I did grade 13 - it was more like a victory lap after grade 12 for me! I did my part to get some of that revenge at the rink when we would travel down here for some friendlies! Now take off, eh!


Thu, Aug 29, 2013 : 2:30 p.m.

This is the War of 1812 all over again! And just like that episode the Canadians will find out what the beer is like down here and retreat! The mothers from London will be out shopping on Friday no doubt... enjoying 6% sales tax compared to the 13% over the bridge... Free Health Care? No such thing! I grew up on the Canadain game and find it to be a wildly entertaining version of the game... you would love 20 "metre" deep end zones... the skill players don't have to take a back seat when you get deep in the red zone... imagine deep pass patterns from inside the 5 - that opens up the field to more options. And don't be so quick to jude the 3 downs... with no fair catch rule every punt is a live action play... unlike the seemingly automatic dead ball play on 4th down. I'll be in Saline supporting my hometown Hornets... but I'm sure to be a bit misty when they crank out Oh Canada... getting chills already! If you hear an "AAAAARRRRRRGGGOOOOOOS!" from the cheap seats... it will be me!

Pete Cunningham

Thu, Aug 29, 2013 : 6:45 p.m.

Translation: Beer Store (self explanatory); 2-4 (24 case of beer or "case" for short in 'Merica) chesterfield (couch) CBC (socialist propaganda machine...just joking. Canadian Broadcasting company).


Thu, Aug 29, 2013 : 6:24 p.m.

You're a real beauty Pete... thanks for translating! Now I need to go to the Beer Store to pick up a 2-4 to drink on my chesterfield while I watch the CBC.

Pete Cunningham

Thu, Aug 29, 2013 : 4:59 p.m.

For those who don't speak Canadian, allow me to clarify for Jenksy. "Fastball" or "fastpitch" is what the Canuckleheads call softball.


Thu, Aug 29, 2013 : 3:16 p.m.

Jensky, I love your Canadian accent, eh. Also, I go to a lot of Red Wings and since I grew up here so close to the border and having heard "Oh, Canada" since I can remember I find when the Wings play a Canadian team I know the words to it almost as well as "The Star Spangled Banner".


Thu, Aug 29, 2013 : 2:52 p.m.

I do enjoy both versions... like watching a fastball game and saying this isn't like baseball... no but both are entertaining. See you say you don't like the 3 downs... and it can be a pain... but the 4th down 99% of the time is a dead ball and I can start my bathroom break and fridge run after the 3rd down. We might need to hash this oot over a cold one, eh?

Pete Cunningham

Thu, Aug 29, 2013 : 2:41 p.m.

I'm an Argooooooos fan myself Jenksy and as stated above actually enjoyed going to the games when I lived in Toronto. But I can't defend the three downs or waiting to start the game clock until the ball is set. I've never watched a game and thought that it needed to be longer with more punting, which is what those rules do.


Thu, Aug 29, 2013 : 11:32 a.m.

I remember watching a few CFL games on channel 9 from Windsor. It was confusing but also entertaining. Watching 3 receivers go in motion was almost comical. And you're right Pete, the kicking out of the end rule always was confusing. What was really fun was watching games in November from Calgary or some other Northern Canadian city and it would be snowing, wind blowing, and darn cold but all the fans were having a blast. Kind of like Green Bay in late December.


Thu, Aug 29, 2013 : 2:40 p.m.

The Super Bowl this year will look more like a Grey Cup - hope it does snow in New York for the big game. Pete... did you attend at the old Ex or after they moved to the Dome? I used to go down to the Ex back in the day.

Pete Cunningham

Thu, Aug 29, 2013 : 1:56 p.m.

I'd go to the occasional Argos game in Toronto. They were fun, but three downs doesn't lead to teams going for it more often, it just leads to teams punting on third down a lot. In the CFL the play clock doesn't start on any play until the ball is set, so the games can get a little lengthy.


Thu, Aug 29, 2013 : 10:26 a.m.

Pete; Check your Huron prediction. Is there some sort of rule when playing Canadians that allow for a score of 1? Do they have to use hockey scoring or something?

Pete Cunningham

Thu, Aug 29, 2013 : 12:15 p.m.

I'm predicting Windsor Massey will score a rouge.