Junior high age kids got their first taste of competitive football this year on Saturday.
The second bantam football jamboree at Walsh Field saw Bonnyville, Cold Lake, St. Paul, Lloydminster, and Vegreville’s squads play controlled, timed games to pop the pads against real opponents for the first time.
Bonnyville Bandits head coach and jamboree organizer Mickey Fagnan said it was a fantastic teaching day.
“It’s a teaching time for us…Kids get all hyped up, but we’re on the field. There’s no whistles, no kicking, no penalties,” said Fagnan.
“We had five out of six teams this year. Only Wainwright could not field a team. Vegreville is brand new in the league, so they were a little intrepid with what to expect here, but they fielded a pretty fair roster, and I think there are several teams that could show in the fall if numbers stay the same.”
Fagnan’s message to the players on a jamboree day is – relax.
“If you’ve never played football before it’s a very complicated sport, especially on offense. The kids are hyped up, so once they relax after a game it’s much easier to deal with. You don’t have the pressure of a 20 second time clock. It’s a lot of fun but they’re playing pretty serious ball.”
Fagnan said the Bandits currently have 23 players committed for next football season, while Cold Lake has around 27 players and St. Paul almost 30.
The Cold Lake Ravens will have a squad this year, said coach Mark Bergquist, after not having enough players last season.
“Last year we were just really light in numbers. This year we’re sitting around 26-27. We’re hoping to have 30 by the time the season rolls around in the fall. But we’re definitely committed to having a team this year in Cold Lake and we’re looking forward to having a great season,” said Bergquist.
“We had a strong peewee crew come up. That’s what has made our numbers come back. We have an excellent peewee program that started in Cold Lake I think two years ago now that we’re starting to see the rewards from.”
St. Paul Bengals offensive coordinator Dave Mclellan said they’ll have an older team this year, but many hadn’t played football before. It was a chance to get their feet wet.
“Really it’s just going out there and, of course, we don’t want anyone to get hurt, we try to encourage them to do everything they’ve been taught over the past month or so and just have fun.
“It doesn’t matter if we win or lose at this point, it’s more about having fun and learning how to play the game and getting to hit somebody that’s not wearing your same helmet,” said Mclellan.
Lloydminster will field a deep team when the season kicks off in the fall, said Fagnan.
“Lloyd has gone from two teams to one…Lloyd is going to have a real powerhouse this year.
The league is set to be more competitive next season as well.
The Bonnyville Bandits won the league title in 2018.
A peewee jamboree for the Cold Lake Rams and Bonnyville Renegades was held on Sunday.