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Morrison’05 finds perfect fit in football

Morrison'05 finds perfect fit in footballFootball was always a natural pursuit for Chantel Morrison.

She just didn’t know it.

“I never ever thought I would play football,” Morrison, 26, said. “It never crossed my mind at all.”

Then along came the Regina Riot, which joined the fledgling Western Women’s Canadian Football League in 2011. That’s when the light went on for Morrison, who had football in her blood but didn’t realize the women’s game was a viable option.

“Growing up in a small town, two brothers, I was kind of a tomboy,” the Wilcox product said. “I played sports my whole life. I heard about (the Riot) and I knew I would love it just based on the type of athlete I am.

“I heard they were having a camp and said, ‘Oh, I’ll go try that out.’ Lo and behold, I loved it.”

Morrison already boasted an impressive sports resume, having played women’s hockey at the CIS level with the University of Regina Cougars and the Mount Royal Cougars in Calgary.

She also played rugby in high school at Athol Murray College of Notre Dame and continued with the Regina Rogues Rugby Club as well as Team Saskatchewan.

“When you grow up in Wilcox, you’re playing a sport every season. So during the spring, rugby was a fit for me,” Morrison said. “I’m not a baseball player. I’m a very aggressive and physical athlete … and rugby is a full-contact sport. I was totally used to that aspect when I joined football. It was just different with equipment.”

Now in her second season with the Riot, Morrison is part of a vaunted twoheaded rushing attack with Carmen Agar, who had 15 carries for 143 yards and two touchdowns Sunday in a 41-7 win over the Winnipeg Nomads Wolf Pack at Mosaic Stadium. Morrison added 23 carries for 134 yards and two majors.

“I love carrying the ball, so running back is a perfect fit for me,” she said. “I was usually a flanker in rugby. I like getting those hits, crashing up the middle. That’s kind of the style I play in football as well.”

Morrison comes by it honestly.

“Both my brothers have played for the (University of Regina) Rams – Mitchell and Walker,” she said. “My dad coached football in Wilcox. My uncle, Len Antonini, is heavily involved (as the executive director of Regina Minor Football). There’s lots of football in my family.”

Morrison plans to continue the tradition “for a few more years” as she makes up for lost time. Along the way, she also hopes the women’s game continues to grow.

“It’s expanding throughout the province,” Morrison said. “It’s awesome for girls knowing they have an opportunity to come to Regina or Saskatoon (and play in the WWCFL). The league is going to grow and girls are going to have that opportunity to play competitive football. As long as you’re mildly athletic, you can play.”

That said, it doesn’t hurt to have Morrison’s background.

“We have a few who’ve played high-end sports,” Riot head coach Darren Fisher said. “They’re a little calmer in the line of fire. They understand how it is going to be (in a competitive environment). They deal with it a little bit better. It’s great to have them lead us.”

While the ground game led Regina’s attack on Sunday, quarterback Aimee Kowalski completed seven of 14 passes for 157 yards and one touchdown, with one interception. The Riot also benefitted from three picks on defence, courtesy of Adrienne Zuck (who scored on the play), Heidi Bond and Cassitee Criddle.

Slotback Claire Dore had the other major. Charlene Mash-Hadlow scored Winnipeg’s lone touchdown. The Riot is back in action Saturday in Saskatoon against the Valkyries.