Ponoka Broncs players Jared Bussiere and Tristan Young made the Central Alberta High School Football League All Stars Dec. 7 during the all star banquet in Ponoka. Flanking the players are coaches Darryl Feschuk and Chris McKenna. Photo by Jeffrey Heyden-Kaye

Ponoka Broncs make central high school football all stars

Edmonton Eskimos kicker Hugh O’Neill gave a special presentation Dec. 7 during the banquet

Two Ponoka Broncs football players that made the All Star list in the high school league.

A special end of the year all star banquet was held in Ponoka Dec. 7 for the Central Alberta High School Football League with each team getting its share of all star players. It was also a night to honour players within the entire league.

For Ponoka it was Tristan Young and Jared Bussiere, both Grade 11 players who made the All Star list.

This is Young’s second year with the senior Broncs and third year overall in the Broncs football program as he started with the Bantam team in Grade 9. He’s proud to represent Ponoka at the banquet.

“I like how it mentally challenges me. It’s not a sport that everybody can play so it’s kind of cool that you can show your mental toughness out there,” said Young.

His father, Jeff, is also proud of Young’s accomplishments pointing out that he started completely green in the sport. “He wanted to try out for the bantam team but he was nervous. So I just told him, ‘Don’t worry about it. Believe in yourself. Walk yourself out in that field and introduce yourself to the coach.’”

For Bussiere, he’s excited to play next year. “I just like the team aspect of it. It’s just a really great sport.”

Another aspect of football that Bussiere enjoys is the physicality and technical skill needed to play. His hope is to build the program up and see a winning season for Ponoka’s teams.

His father, Alain, is also proud of the strong performance Bussiere shows on the field. “We’re proud of him.”

For co-coach Cody Baird, both players are the kind of athletes coaches hope to see on the field. They were invested in the game and essential to the team’s successes over the season.

Also on the list of awards was Murray Wedin who was recognized with the 2017 Founder’s Award. Wedin’s past work with Ponoka football was one of the main reasons for the award and he offered his gratitude for being able to contribute to the sport.

When it comes to football, there’s always a history behind a player’s success. That is no different for Hugh O’Neill, punter and place kicker for the Edmonton Eskimos, who spoke about staying strong when times get tough. His life has taken him through several ups and downs.

O’Neill was the keynote speaker at the banquet.

A career change for him was being picked for the Hamilton Tiger Cats as a punter. Injury, however, would take that away from him.

To get past this challenge, O’Neill set some serious goals. “Goal setting kind of helped me to do my job.”

He created a checklist of daily tasks such as meditating and stretching.

“This helped me in my rehab and gave me that feedback and accomplishments while achieving those goals,” said O’Neill, adding that discipline was just as important.

“I found that my injury required a lot of mental discipline.”

Being dropped by the Tiger Cats, however, brought a 20-month off-season for O’Neill who at the time questioned whether he should even call himself a football player. It was a challenging time for him to try and stay positive.

“This produced a lot of self doubt,” he explained.

O’Neill adds that motivation was key to ensuring he could make it through the tougher times. “I had to convince myself to work hard.”

More recently O’Neill joined the Eskimos and had a strong season with the team making it to the Western Finals but losing to the Calgary Stampeders.

He added that along with hard work, the dedicated support of friends helped him through those tough days.


Edmonton Eskimos punter and place kicker Hugh O’Neill took some time to speak on growth and learning in professional football Dec. 7 at Ponoka Secondary Campus. The school played host to the Central Alberta High School Football League All Star banquet with two Broncs making the list. Photo by Jeffrey Heyden-Kaye

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