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Maple Ridge High School honours former coach in first ever football game

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Barrie's new Maple Ridge High School played their first-ever football game Thursday. Officials say athletics will be a key part of helping the school develop a sense of community in just its third year of existence.

"Football is one of those ones that a lot of people can play, and then everybody brings a friend out and all of a sudden, we have bleachers full of people watching and enjoying and celebrating a great sport," said Maple Ridge's athletic director, Katie Cain.

"It's really important in a school to build that sense of community and shared purpose. And I think that's what we've started to see at Maple Ridge in the development so far," said John Dance, the Simcoe County District School Board Director of Education.

 With Maple Ridge squaring off against Eastview Secondary School, the teams honoured legendary Eastview coach Martin Carl with his family in attendance.

Martin dedicated more than 30 years to high school athletics before passing away in 2020.

"It's not just about the game. It's about being part of a community," said Martin's wife, Eileen.

"It was important for him to bring kids to school for something outside of academics and be part of something. Be part of a club or a team, get their volunteer hours and build community," explained Mackenzie Piotrowski, Martin's daughter.

"He was always caring and concerned. In the halls at school, he would include everyone. If he saw someone with their chin down, he would tell them to get their chin up. He was just that kind of guy. He made everybody feel good," added Cain, who says Martin was a mentor to her.

Coach Carl was a major advocate for Maple Ridge getting an artificial turf field last year. The facility is one of the only ones of its kind in Barrie.

Those who knew him say he put the students first and that tireless volunteers like him make amateur sports possible.

"Whether kids needed a certain level of support or not, Martin was always ready to give it to them. Sports was the outlet, but it was more so helping to develop young people," said Dance.

"One of the things we said to describe Martin was others before self. He was dedicated to making lives better," said Eileen as she fought back tears.

In order to attend Maple Ridge's inaugural football game, students and families were encouraged to donate five dollars at the gate, with all proceeds going to the Terry Fox Foundation.

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