By Greg Price
The W.R. Myers Rebels football team is entering its regular season with plenty of positives and forward momentum from its preseason jamboree at Winston Churchill High School on Friday.
The team finished with a 3-0 record with plenty of opportunity to spread playing time around to see what the coaching staff had to work with.
“We were pretty happy with the opportunity to start the season off with a jamboree like this. The format guaranteed that we would be able to get all of our players plenty of time, as each team got to run 15 consecutive plays with their first string offence and defence, and then another 15 plays each with their second strings,” said Jason Jensen, defensive co-ordinator for the W.R. Myers Rebels football team. “Given the number of players that we had that are new to football, it was really helpful for them to get their feet wet against real competition, but with coaches on the field to immediately answer their questions and correct them. Plus, it also gave us coaches a chance to get an idea of what we really have in our players.”
What the Rebels had in its players was pitching the shutout defensively with not allowing a score, while also spreading the ball around offensively. The first game saw the Rebels scoring three majors to Winston Churchill Bulldogs’ zero.
On offence, first-team quarterback Mike Sawatzky was able to hit slotback Brett Andrus for a touchdown, while slotback Kadin Reynolds also found the end zone. Second-team quarterback Colton Weinberger managed to connect with wide receiver Tylor Kornelson for a third score, sealing the game for the Rebels.
“To say that we’re impressed with the results is an understatement. Our first game was against Winston Churchill, who plays in our league, but in the ‘A’ division, and provincially, a tier above us,” said Jensen. “We managed to shut their offence out completely, which is pretty impressive when you are talking about facing two sets of 15 consecutive plays.”
There was a gentlemen’s agreement in the Rebels’ second game against Cold Lake which only had 19 players. Given stamina concerns, 10 plays apiece were run for first team and five plays for the second-team units as the two Tier IV teams battled.
“Cold Lake held a pretty significant size advantage against us, and while their lack of numbers meant they might get tired out quicker than us, it also meant that our second team would be facing what was basically their first team, with only a couple of substitutions,” said Jensen. “Our defence proved up to the task once again, standing tall against a punishing physical attack, and earning our second shut out of the day. Cold Lake proved equally tough defensively, but Sawatzky was able to spot a lane and scramble for touchdown.”
Rebels concluded its jamboree run against Division ‘B’ rival Chinook Coyotes from Lethbridge. Combating the Tier II opponent, the teams returned to the 15-play format.
Although blitzing is not allowed in the jamboree format to lessen the chance for injury prior to the season, both teams agreed to take off those shackles with the Rebels ending up on the better end of the decision.
“Before the game, both coaching staffs talked, and agreed to allow blitzing, which had been barred from our other games. While it wasn’t our suggestion, it played right into our wheelhouse, as we turned up the heat defensively, stopping the Coyotes dead in their tracks on both series,” said Jensen.
Blitzing did not slow down the Rebels attack who scored its most majors of any of the three contests.
Sawatzky rushed for two touchdowns, and found Kadin Reynolds and Tylor Kornelson in the end zone, scoring their second touchdowns of the day. Rookie running back Denzel Gross capped off the scoring with a rushing touchdown of his own.
“Being able to go to this jamboree and score wins over Chinook and Winston is huge, especially since we’ll close out our regular season with back-to-back games against them. In Chinook’s case, we’ll also be competing with them to defend our status as Jerry Dawson trophy holders. With Cold Lake, there is a chance that we could run into them if we are fortunate enough to make another provincials run, so it’s nice to see how we stack up,” said Jensen.
“More than anything, we wanted to get a better idea of what we really have with this team, and to get warmed up for the season. It was great to see our offence explode for big plays, and it appears that our defence is on track to be just as dominating as it was last season. We’ll need all of it, as an even bigger test will come on Friday night when we face the Catholic Central Cougars at home. They were a provincially-ranked Tier II team last year, and play in the ‘A’ division of our league, so really, we could be looking at our toughest game of the season. There’s an old saying in football that steel sharpens steel, so our hope is that this game makes us a better, tougher team. Either way, as I said before, talk is cheap, and if we think we really are a team to be reckoned with, we’d better prove it.”
W.R. Myers Rebels football team opens up its regular season on Friday night at 7 p.m. against Catholic Central Cougars at Ken McDonald Memorial Sports Park.