Perfect season for Champ

Though the Jr. Mustangs’ Junior Varsity team missed the playoffs in 2017, the team wasn’t without its strengths, including a strong defensive unit and a great run game. They’re already geared up for a return to the postseason in 2018

You couldn’t have drawn up a better season for the London Junior Mustangs’ Varsity team, as the eldest squad donning the purple and white dominated play in the Ontario Provincial Football League (OPFL) all summer en route to going undefeated (11-0) and steamrolling another (previously) undefeated Ottawa squad, 35-0, in the championship game to earn their first league title since 2012.

“Our players really bought into the team concept,” said head coach JP Circelli. “That was really the driving force. We took a group of talented athletes from all over the city, many who had great high school careers, and we created a fun and selfless environment for them to succeed.”

It certainly worked. The Varsity Mustangs, a group of 60 athletes who played in the OPFL’s Western Conference and traveled from Windsor to Niagara to play regular season games throughout the summer, ran the table with a perfect 10-0 record before capping off the season with a dominant championship win in Kingston.

The majority of the team’s athletes had played together in the past, or knew each other from London’s football circles. Still, Circelli says, it took awhile for the team to get going on offense. But you wouldn’t have known that by the end of the year, as the offense by then was simply explosive, highlighted in part by running back Tazie Vang Bell, the team’s overall MVP.

Circelli, who has had a lot of success coaching with the Jr. Mustangs for six seasons and had a lot of success with this current group of athletes (he moved up from JV coach to Varsity this year), also credited an impressive defensive unit and special teams group in helping put the team in a position to win it all.

“Everyone came together,” Circelli said. “It really was a special season.”

Junior Varsity ‘Stangs

While the Junior Varsity Mustangs didn’t have the success of some of the other organization’s teams this summer, the team nonetheless improved throughout the year and built on different aspects of the game that will help them in 2018.

“The team certainly enjoyed some strong play throughout the season, despite the fact that some key players went down with injuries,” said Circelli. “They had a great run game and a strong defensive unit. There was no shortage of talent on the team, that’s for sure.’

In order to get back to the playoffs in 2018, Circelli says the team will be focused on talent identification from around the city in the offseason.

“A new coaching staff is on board, and they’ll certainly be focused on returning this team to its winning ways,” Circelli said. “They’re already looking ahead to returning to the playoffs next year and having a lot of success.”

Contributions by JP Circelli and photos by London Junior Mustangs