The Cold Lake High School Royals Football team is celebrating a great season, after coming home this past weekend with a silver medal in Provincials. Head Coach Kelly Johnson says he’s so proud of what the team accomplished, “so proud of the kids. We faced a lot of adversity during the season and we rallied at the right time of the year. The boys really came together and put in three really good wins at the end of the year to get us to Provincials.”
After spending a couple years in a re-building stage, a season plagued with injuries and losing out in the first round of playoffs, the Royals really came alive taking the tier 4 playoffs and earning their way to Provincials in Lacombe. Despite a 42-0 loss to Willow Creek, the team can hold their heads up high knowing they were part of the magic that brought them that far in playoffs for the first time in three years. “When we played well, we played really well,” states the coach.
Half way through the season, fans really noticed a change in the Royals, the coach explains, “we got healthy. We only have 23 players and that’s pretty few to be playing with in our division. We can compete with anybody when we’re healthy; but when you have a short bench, so many kids are playing both ways. Then fatigue sets in and injuries happen.” With a healthy, full club heading into the final stretch of the season, the Royals battle their way to Provincials.
The Royals will be hitting spring camp looking for more players to add to the squad, “we have over half our team graduating this year,” Coach Johnson says it’ll be tough to replace them, “some of the kids have been playing with us for six years in our program; from bantam up to now. There’s some really solid football players that are key contributors and they’re going to be missed.”
The coach speaks to the graduating players, “your time playing as a Royal is done now. How else are you going to be remembered? Come out and help us in spring camp. Go out and help coach, where you move to next. Don’t be afraid to go and coach and pass that knowledge on. Your legacy’s done now, as a player; but what’s your next legacy?”
“Next year, one of our biggest goals is to get our numbers back up,” adding the peewee squad to Cold Lake Football will really help build the overall club in the city, explains the coach, “the last three years in a row, our [enrollment] numbers were declining. How do we get our numbers up? We look at the best teams in the province and even our league, they’ve got peewee programs. If we look at clubs, like in Bonnyville, we have the same talent level; but they’ve been playing longer, so they’re the better football players.” By adding the peewee level, the club is able to build stronger and produce more football players.
The artificial turf field is also going to benefit the club immensely, says Coach Johnson, “Bonnyville’s looks really nice and how can that not attract you to play here? A beautiful surface like that and a beautiful facility. That should generate some interest.”
Johnson is a big believer in the well-rounded kid, “we don’t just want kids focusing on football, we want them to play all sports. Sometimes kids get focused one sport and football gets overlooked. We want them to realize that multi-sports athletes are the way to go.”
There are so many thank yous, the coach would like to acknowledge all the coaches, from peewee to high school level, the parents & volunteers, administrators at Cold Lake High School. “We have some of the best traveling fans in peewee, bantam and high school football. We may have more fans come out on the road than the other teams have in the stands. When you see that happen it’s really special. Our attendance was so good, when you see that happen, you know it comes from the parents.”
A special thank you to the referees, “being a ref is probably the most thankless job. Most of my refs donate back the money they get paid”. It’s not easy finding refs and the Cold Lake ones have taken on extra work, giving up a lot of weekends with the peewee squad being added, “it’s not an easy job.”
The Royals will be celebrating the season with their annual year-end banquet on December 8th. Congratulations on all your success!