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Friday , 27 May 2022
Bonnyville Bandits pose together after a win in October 2021. Image: Serena Critch.

Bonnyville Bandits cap off season with virtual awards ceremony

The Bonnyville Bandits bantam football club handed out their awards in a virtual presentation posted over the weekend.

Coach Kevin Sartain explained the thinking behind each of the awards given after a great season.

Coach Kevin Sartain presented the awards via a series of mini videos on the Bonnyville Bandits online group.

Heart and Soul – Gabrielle Gratton 

“There is nobody else this award could’ve gone too. From the first practice, we nicknamed her “the Wolverine.” Small – smaller than everyone on the line – not as fast as the running backs or the linebackers, but had more grit, heart and determination than anybody we’d seen in the league. She was injured halfway through the season and missed a couple of games. It was a gameday decision on the championship final, said Sartain. 

“There was a conversation between this individual, Coach Steve, her mother, and myself and we had decided that she wasn’t going to play, that it wasn’t worth the risk. We got her for one more season. There’s about three minutes left in the game and she convinced Coach Steve to tape her foot up so she could go in and play just one play in the championship game. Coach Steve taped her foot up and she got in one play, maybe two. She got off the field with tears of joy because she got to go into the championship game. That is heart and soul.”

Most Valuable Player – Zayden Ward 

“This player on offence and defence was our safety net, was our running back, and was our team leader. The interceptions, the sacks, the tackles, the broken up tackles, the long 80 yard runs that were called back, the 140 yard run in St. Paul where he zigged and he zagged and he got injured, and then he was injured and missed two weeks. It should come as no surprise to anyone. We are going to miss him.”

Offensive MVP – Liam Critch 

“This year’s Offensive MVP shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Other teams would have to gameplan for him. Whenever he had the ball in his hands he was a one-man wrecking crew. Impossible to stop. He exemplified Bandit heart as much as anybody we ever had. He never gave up on us. He played hurt. He played tired.

“At one point we had to pull him off the field with two minutes left because the young man just had nothing left. He could barely walk off the field. When you have that kind of heart in the body that that young man has, the way he can play football, the sky is the limit. I am looking forward to seeing what happens with him in high school, but we get him for one more year.” 

Defensive MVP – Tanner Massick  

“The player who won this award reminded us very much of a player who used to play for us 10 years ago by the name of Reid. He was wild in his execution as a defensive player. Whenever there was a big play, he was usually involved. Whenever there is a big miss, he was involved. The reason was that Coach Robbie told him, ‘If you’re going to do something and you’re going to miss – miss big. If you’re gonna make a mistake, make a mistake big.’ And he did that in both ways.

“If the play was big and he made a play, it was unbelievable. Hitting players out of bounds on the sidelines within play. Or sacking the quarterback, or interceptions, or if he missed a sack that was wild open, he came in on fire. This player was our Defensive MVP halfway through the season and then he just continued to show he was the Defensive MVP.”

Rookie of the Year – Dylan Mahon

“With a team full of rookies, you would think that this award was really hard to decide on, but it wasn’t. This player from the first day to the last day, exemplified what it means to be a Bandit on both sides of the ball. Whether it was at linebacker or at tight end, I cannot wait to see his return we know we got him for the next two years. We’re very excited to see the football player he is going to become.”

Offensive Lineman of the Year – Beau Mallery 

Honourable Mention – Jorja Rowe

“This player was a staple on our offensive line whether it was at tackle, at guard, never played center, but he’s going to learn for next year – keep that in mind.”

Defensive Lineman of the Year Ryley Kyle 

Honourable Mention – Gunnar Ives

“There is no other player we have on our defensive line who deserves this more. This player used to be on the field for the entire game. He would come off in the last three minutes only because Coach Steve would say, you know that he hasn’t come off the field once? He’d come off the field and his face was so red I thought he was oging to topple over. He was always grinding for the quarterback, making plays in the backfield, chasing down the running backs, he never gave up. 100 per cent, 100 per cent of the time. He was absolutely awesome.”

Offensive Back Field of the Year – Sara Fagnan 

“This should come to no surprise for anyone. This individual controlled our offence, controlled what was going on at the line of scrimmage, controlled what was going on in the backfield, controlled her receivers, controlled out running back – literally controlled our offence. Without her, I don’t know where we would’ve been. She had the intelligence to lead the team when we needed it. She had the intelligence to make the right call when we needed it.”

Defensive Back Field Player of the Year – Jacob Peters

“This player had never played a down of football before this year. And you would’ve never known it. He was one of our better linebackers, he was one of our more trusted tacklers, no matter what, he would be in there. He was flying around that field like a banshee.”

Most Improved Player – Holden Penney 

“This player started out with the most penalty yards we have ever seen an individual get on a Bandit field or in a Bandit jersey. As the year went on, this player began to understand the game of football in a way that is very unusual for someone that young and who has never played bantam football. He started making interceptions, he started making plays, he started being in the right position at the right time. It just continued on throughout the year.

“He became someone we knew he could count on. I’ll never forget when he intercepted the ball at the 30 yard line and took it 75 yards to the endzone with Gunner Ives blocking for him. The look on that young man’s face when he came into the endzone, and we came in at halftime, he knew he did something great. He knew he had just lifted his team in a game that we were really struggling in.”

About Michael Menzies

Menzies is the editor-at-large for Connected Media Inc. Born and raised in Vermilion, he started in May 2018 during his NAIT Radio and Television practicum and reports on local politics, sports, and community issues. He became the Bonnyville Pontiacs play-by-play voice during the 2019-20 season. He also comments on provincial and national issues. Menzies hosts Connected! Evening Monday-Thursday at 5 o’clock. He also likes to buy books and read some of them.