Illinois College, Albright and Utica are each making border runs this spring to play teams in Canada, and each get 10 full-contact practices as part of the bargain. Teams can do so once every three years.
Illinois College plays the University of New Brunswick at St. John Seawolves Football Club on May 21, while Albright faces Vanier College of Montreal the following day in Concordia University Football Stadium.
A total of 45 student-athletes will make the trip for Illinois College. The team will leave on May 17 and return May 25. Along the way, the Blueboys will stop at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, and visit the campuses and athletic facilities at Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio, Yale in New Haven, Conn., and The United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y.
“It will be a great adventure for 45 young men to be able to travel across the country,” said Illinois College head football coach Garrett Campbell. “The game is only a small part of the trip. It’s more about the experience.”
The game will be played by Canadian rules, with a couple exceptions. The teams will use an NCAA regulation-size football, and the offenses will get four downs instead of three. The game will be played on a longer and wider field, however, with 12 players from each team on the field at all times.
Albright coach John Marzka believes this game provides a great opportunity for the Lions. “Our players and coaches are very excited for the upcoming foreign tour experience,” he said. “To be able to put the pads on this spring gives our team a tremendous advantage. The opportunity to spend four days and three nights in Montreal is extremely valuable from both an educational and a cultural standpoint. We also get the benefit of building team unity and valuable chemistry with the added time we are able to spend together both on the tour and in our preparations on campus. We believe this experience will greatly move us forward to reaching our full potential as a team for the 2011 season.”
The meeting between the two programs will be the first-ever, and only the second time in program history that the Lions will travel to Canada. In their first foreign tour (spring 2008), the red and white traveled to Toronto, to face the University of Toronto Varsity Blues. Albright won that game 28-21 to claim their first international win. The tour would eventually propel the Lions to their first Middle Atlantic Conference title in 11 seasons as well as an ECAC Bowl Championship.
Utica will play May 21 against the Saguenay Mercenaries who were last years' champions of the Major Football League of Quebec. The Mercenaries compete in the LFMQ, which primarily consists of players with college degrees who don't want to give up the game after college.
“The opportunity to travel internationally will be a tremendous educational experience for our program and Utica College,” said Utica coach Blaise Faggiano. “Our team will take tours of historic Montreal and Quebec City during the trip.”