Heartbreak for East Kildonan football team kicked out of playoffs

The Manitoba Minor Football Association has disqualified East Kildonan's East Side Eagles peewee team from playoffs because one of its players was 37 days too old.
Dean Lytle reminds his team "it isn't over," as peewees practice Monday night despite being kicked out of the playoffs. (CBC)

The Manitoba Minor Football Association has disqualified East Kildonan's East Side Eagles peewee team from playoffs because one of its players was 37 days too old.

Playoffs had started and the team, made up of 11 and 12-year-olds who had just completed an undefeated eight-game season, had already won their first playoff game Thanksgiving weekend.

But later that week, in a letter to the team's coaches, the Manitoba Minor Football Association started asking questions about a player who turns 13 Nov. 24. The cutoff age for the peewee division is 12 years old by December 31.

"We right away went to verify his birth date," said head coach Dean Lytle. "Sure enough it came back he was 37 days too old and was turning 13 before the end of the year. Although he was 12 the entire year, and also still 12 after the season would be over, we acknowledged right away it was an oversight. We just missed it."

It was a transcription error made by the club during the boy's registration, he added. Instead of 2002, the year of his birth was recorded as 2003. 

Player at centre of issue devastated

For the boy, Carson Chamberlain Brass, who has played on the offensive line since June, the news was devastating. He had just moved to Winnipeg from The Pas and it was his first season playing football.

"I went home and then I cried. And then I heard we got kicked out of the playoffs. I went home and cried again," he said. Chamberlain Brass said he felt like he let down his whole team.

Chamberlain Brass said he had no idea he was in the wrong age category, and neither did his teammates, since no one knew him before he moved to the city five months ago. 

Lytle said the league also ruled the team's first game a forfeit, taking away their only win in the playoffs. They were out of the running for the championship title they'd set their sights on.

Team has emotional reaction 

"All I can say is it was absolutely heart breaking. Absolutely heartbreaking. To the point where I contacted Sport Manitoba to see whether or not I'd be able to get a sports psychologist," Lytle said.

Team member Gage Richey, 12, said he was pretty emotional when he heard the news.

"Upset. Mad," he said between tears. He believes the complaint to the MMFA came from another team. 

"It was just kind of dumb that the other team didn't tell then they [the league] waited until playoffs to kick us then they knew we wouldn't be able to play no more," he said.

Other players echoed the frustration.

"Unbelievable," said quarterback Payton Falk. "I don't know, it's just hard to believe.…We worked so hard and then it all got taken away from us."

Chamberlain Brass said he agreed he should be disqualified from playing, but not the whole team. 

Minor Football Association says it's playing by rules 

Mike Garlinski, president of the Manitoba Minor Football League, declined to comment directly on the issue.

"While it's never a pleasant thing when forfeits, suspensions or the like are deemed necessary, just like the rules our players and coaches abide by on the field; our clubs and administrators are held accountable to rules off the field," he said in a statement emailed to CBC.

Lytle argues though, the MMFA didn't follow its own rules for dealing with an ineligible player or giving the team the proper notice to remove Chamberlain Brass itself before playoffs.

But playoffs resume tonight, with Charleswood instead of Lytle's team facing off against Steinbach, and Lytle feels it's too late.

"They never lost or never even came close to losing, and their season's over. Not because they went out, gave their best effort and the outcome was decided on the field, but the outcome was decided in a board room. For 11 and 12-year-old kids," he said.

The East Side Eagles are still hitting the field, though, and ran through some drills at their home field in East Kildonan Monday night.

"[It's] about ... not letting them feel like their world has ended," said Lytle. "Let's get these kids doing what they love to get their mind off [it], to not let them feel that all of a sudden it's over."


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