Football players at Thom Collegiate had a tough decision heading into the 2019 school year: play for their rivals, or not play football at all.

With a lot of seniors departing the team from last year's roster, the Thom Collegiate Trojans found themselves shorthanded coming into football season, with only 18 returning players. They did not have enough players turn out to form a team, which meant their season would be cancelled.

The decision hit players like defensive back Carter McFie hard, who was looking forward to playing for his school.

“A lot of us even shed some tears. I was surprised that I was that upset because I've only played for one year, but it hit hard,” said McFie.

So McFie and the other Trojans who wanted to play football in 2019 were given the option to suit up for their rivals, the Winston Knoll Wolverines.

“At first I wasn't too eager to go over, just because a big reason why I was playing was to play for my school,” said McFie.

With some hesitation, the passion to play helped make the decision for some of the players from Thom.

However, the players joining the Wolverines created another obstacle for Head Coach Andrew Turbuck. He had to try to integrate a new group of players that were usually lining up on the other side of the ball.

For Turbuck, it came down to establishing his team’s culture and helping the new players feel a part of the team.

“Treating the kids as if they were at Knoll,” said Turbuck. “Talking to the kids about respect, respecting their teammates, respecting their coaches and that's our philosophy.”

The new additions also created a change of pace for the original Wolverines players, but quarterback Ethan Hugg says the team is happy to have the Thom players now that they have seen their committment to the team.

“I mean it's weird, but we're glad to have them. They commit to football, they just want to be here so it's good,” said Hugg.

McFie has embraced the team’s philosophy, so much so that he has been named a team captain for the 2019 season.

“He showed those leadership roles and showed that respect that we told the players we wanted to represent,” said Turbuck.

The Wolverines were able to start their season off with a win, proving the teams make a successful combination. The newly formed unit topped the defending City Champion Miller Maurauders 13-11 in their season opener.

“I love how we can help them out to get the win, it’s a great feeling,” said McFie.

The win was a relief for the original Wolverines players, bringing in a win for their school for the first time since 2017.

"It felt really good, we haven't won in a long time, it was really good,” said Hugg.

The Wolverines will be looking for their second win next week against the Campbell Tartans.