Chris Bertoia with his arm around Tre Ford looking out into field The Waterloo Warriors football program announced its arrival in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) league, with their historic turnaround creating one of the most memorable seasons in program history. Now, they’re adding some hardware to go along with the memories.

Head coach Chris Bertoia has been named the winner of the Dave “Tuffy” Knight award as OUA coach of the year, while rookie quarterback Tre Ford has claimed the Norm Marshall OUA rookie of the year award.

Ford, the freshman quarterback from Niagara Falls, is the second player in school history to claim the Marshall award (Jordan Verdone – 2008).  Playing in Bertoia’s quarterback platoon system with veteran Lucas McConnell, the electric rookie finished sixth in the OUA in rushing yards with 717, fourth in passing efficiency and first in completion percentage.  

Tre Ford running with footballComing out of A.N. Myer High School in Niagara Falls with twin brother (and OUA all-rookie team cornerback) Tyrell, the expectations were high for the young signal-caller. But in a season where a number of rookie quarterbacks saw the field regularly, Ford was voted by the OUA coaches as the head of the class.

“Tre is very deserving of this award,” said Bertoia. “He had a lot of stiff competition, and he had a lot of pressure to be the guy to help turn this program around. He lived up to expectations, obviously.”

Ford’s dynamic first season was made all the more impressive given the fact that he missed the team’s week 4 game against Carleton with an injury. He was a constant threat with both his legs and arm, and he gained nearly first-down yardage every time he kept the ball: Ford averaged 9.3 yards per passing attempt, and an OUA-best 9.3 yards per carry. All told, Ford totalled 10 touchdowns – four rushing and six passing – in just seven games.

“He’s just electric,” said Bertoia. “Tre represents everything we want as Waterloo Warriors football players: he’s a great player, a great student, and a great person. He’s exciting to watch and exciting to coach, and I’m proud of him.”

Chris Bertoia and Tre Ford holding awards togetherAs for his own award, Bertoia was the odds-on favourite after leading his alma mater to a huge turnaround – the club finished 4-4 after back-to-back 0-8 seasons. But the down-to-earth head coach pointed to his staff, his players, and his family as the main drivers for his success in 2017.

“This is a we award, not a me award,” said Bertoia. “I have to thank my wife first and foremost, she lets me do this job, and I couldn’t have done it without her. And the award is also about the players, and their efforts. It’s a credit to them and our coaching staff who works so tirelessly and put in the time and effort.”

Heralded as a master recruiter when he joined the Warriors from the Western Mustangs three years ago, Bertoia also emerged as one of the nation’s best offensive minds in 2017. Calling the offensive plays, the former OUA all-star offensive lineman helped create and manage the highly-effective quarterback platoon that made Waterloo one of the most explosive offenses across Canada. The Warriors averaged 37.4 points a game – good for fourth in the nation – after finishing dead last in Canada with 9.6 points per game a season ago.

Chris Bertoia on football field Making the award all the more special for Bertoia is its namesake. He played three seasons under Tuffy Knight, winning a Yates Cup with the legendary bench boss in 1997. Bertoia is just the second Warriors head coach to be named OUA coach of the year, after Knight himself won the award in 1989.

“He’s my coach,” said Bertoia. “He’s a mentor, and I learned so much from him, even when I didn’t know it. He turned me into the coach and the man I am today. I can’t say enough about Coach Knight.”

“It’s humbling to be honoured by the other OUA coaches [who vote on the awards],” added Bertoia. “There are so many great coaches in this league, and to have my name mentioned among them is truly an honour.”