Before the Cold Lake Royals got back to the gridiron for practices and games this season, their program was already expanding.
The Royals now feature players from Assumption Jr./Sr High School and Cold Lake High School to truly unite the city’s football program.
In recent years, Assumption has run a 6-man team, but coming together with CLHS to combine the teams into one collective group is a big step forward for the school and city’s athletics.
“The kids we have out there from Assumption are really enthusiastic and really great,” said coach Devon Millar.
“I think we have about seven out from Assumption right now. If we can get that up to maybe a dozen or so and keep this thing rolling–because to create a team that’s competitive and that has an opportunity for these kids to play is really important,” he said.
The decision is a welcome one too for longtime Royals head coach Kelly Johnson who is happy for the move. It’s a chance to build a deeper and stronger program, starting at the lower age levels as well.
“It’s been great having Devon Millar and the Assumption players join us. A great coach and kids. The increase in players is going to help build our combined program,” said Johnson. “It’s great for the Cold Lake community.”
With a group of roughly 31 players suiting up for the Royals this year, the start has been a good one. The Royals are off to a 1-1 start after winning in their first game against the Bonnyville Voyageurs.
But with an extended layoff, there has been a learning curve for many to the high school game with Grade 10 students now being graduating players and leaders, and many getting their first cracks at returning to game speed. It’s all part of the learning process.
“Yeah, [you’ll learn] it hurts when you get hit. This isn’t practice. You’re going to get steamrolled sometimes, that’s gonna happen and you gotta get up and get back in the huddle,” said Johnson.
“I think as coaches, we’re nervous too, because it’s been a while for us being in those situations of coaching and even special teams, you know, trying to get kids organized in that because you’re trying to discuss themes in practice.”
The Royals suffered a hard defeat at home against the Holy Rosary Raiders, one of the top football programs in the province. But the pieces are falling into place to expand the program and widen the pool of young football players getting better at the game together.
“We are definitely Cold Lake football now. It’s not necessarily Assumption and Cold Lake isolated, I think we’re really wanting to make sure that it was a one team thing.”
The Cold Lake Royals will host the Wainwright Commandos at Thomas Varghese Field on Friday at 5:00pm. Meanwhile, the Ravens defeated the St. Paul Bengals 19-2 and will play the Lloydminster Red Dogs this weekend.