By Greg Price
Three Taberites, Wyatt Thurston, Evan Harkness, and Granger Leth, made their mark at this past weekend’s Southern Alberta Minor Football Association all-star game at the University of Lethbridge.
For Taber bantam Rebels defensive co-ordinator Jason Jensen, who also served as a co-ordinator for Team Orange at the all-star game, the trio were easy selections for a team that came off the afterglow of a Tier IV championship this past fall.
“The three were standout players as it was. Wyatt was our best defender and Granger was a stalwart both on our D-line and our O-line,” said Jensen.
“Evan was our starting running back and our starting linebacker and was probably our offensive MVP. It was also the leadership those three brought which was really big.”
Thurston and Harkness were also able to get MVP accolades at the all-star game with Thurston voted top defensive player and Harkness top special teams player for his kick-returning ability.
Jensen was dubbed the defensive co-ordinator the Friday of all-star weekend and when he was handed his defensive starting lineup, none of them featured the three Taberites, who were playing offence.
“The fact of the matter is, when you are coaching an all-star game, you have two, two-hour practices to evaluate players and place them and maybe they aren’t the best fit where their coach said they would be,” said Jensen.
“That seemed to be the case. Both Wyatt and Granger are outstanding offensive linemen and they were right at home there, but we had guys playing on the D-line that we found out later, they were more suited to play O-lin, at least with the makeup of the team we were playing against.”
Jensen made the switch to place Leth and Thurston as book end defensive ends which paid immediate dividends.
“It totally changed the course of the game for our defence. It stopped the problems of them running up the middle on us,” said Jensen, adding Harkness was brought in as a cornerback. “Evan started of as the starting fulllback, Wyatt was the starting right tackle and Granger was the starting left tackle and by half-time they were playing both ways and Evan was also returning kicks.”
The Taberites played on Team Orange and despite their solid performances, could not bring the team to victory in a 34-17 loss to Team Purple.
“Their defence adjusted really well where we couldn’t move the ball in the second half. We got beat on one long pass in the second half and one muffed punt went for a touchdown,” said Jensen.
Thurston was voted Most Outstanding Defensive Player for what was essentially one half of defensive football in a dominating performance.
“He was the team’s leading tackler. When he first went in, he recorded three straight tackles and the opposing coach called a time-out,” said Jensen with a chuckle. “They were triple teaming on basically every play after that.”
Harkness was voted Special Teams Player of the Game as chosen by Calgary Stampeders special teams co-ordinator Mark Kilam.
“And Granger was great. He was a rock at left tackle and because of him, they were unable to run off-tackle when he switched to defence,” said Jensen. “I was pretty dang proud of all three of those boys.”