By Dale Cory
It was still anybody’s game well into the fourth quarter — until Zak Louis took control of the outcome.
The Ponoka Broncs held a slim 31-27 lead over the Caroline Cougars in Western Alberta Six-man Football League action on a warm, sunny day at the PCHS football field.
Caroline had just engineered a long touchdown march that resulted in a major score to pull within four points, and appeared to have momentum on its side.
On the ensuing kickoff, Ponoka’s Louis hauled in the ball at the Broncs 30-yard line. He cut into the middle, then broke to his right, where he found a lane down the right sideline. At midfield, Louis fooled all six Cougars special teams players by cutting sharp to his left. In front of him layed a wide open field.
Louis rambled the rest of the way to the end zone untouched.
The visitors never recovered.
The Louis touchdown put the home team up 39-27, and propelled the Broncs to a 45-33 victory over the Cougars. It was Ponoka’s second-straight win, and evened the team’s record at 2-2 on the season.
“We played a good game. We got a lot of good blocks to open the holes up to get us into the end zone,” said Louis, who finished the day with four major scores. “It took good blocks from the guys in front of me, and a lot of open field awareness to know where everybody is around you.”
Louis had touchdown runs of nine yards, 34 yards, 80 yards and 68 yards. Scott Pylypow scored Ponoka’s other major and Nick Clarke took care of the converts.
“Our offence took care of the ball for most of the game. I like that. I like having more possession time,” said elated head coach Scott MacGregor after the win. “And our defence adjusted to Caroline’s irregular formation in the second half and it worked out a little better for us.”
After losing its first two games of the season, Ponoka has rebounded with a dramatic last-second win over Hinton, and the Oct. 8 blowout of Caroline. MacGregor has noticed a different attitude among his players in recent weeks.
“Right now the feeling within the locker room is great. I open the dressing room at 5:30 and the guys start coming in to get ready. When I begin practice at 6:30, there’s a definite buzz, and the guys are all excited to be here in the morning to practice,” says MacGregor. “Come game day, you can’t wipe the smile off their faces. They’ve really learned to come together to support each other, and that’s the whole reason why we’re doing this. We’re trying to instill character in these men and we’re using football as the tool.”
Football is very much a team game, and there is no doubt after spending a few minutes with Louis that he understands that better than anyone.
Through four games, he has found the end zone 11 times, scoring one touchdown against Drayton Valley, three against both Hinton and Rimbey, and four against Caroline.
While this Grade 12 student has certainly benefited from playing six-man football, he obviously has the talent to continue his football career at a higher level upon graduating.
“It’s a lot different from 12-man. There’s a lot more field to run in. It’s fun. I like it a lot, says Louis, 17. “But hopefully, I can get into a 12-man school after this.”
With talent — comes choices regarding his future. And don’t think for a moment Zak Louis has not been noticed.
His goal is to get into a Canadian university next fall.
“My first choice is Calgary, or possibly to Edmonton. There’s been lots of talk of scouts being around and being at our games here and there. At the Jamboree up in Edmonton there were lots of scouts there keeping an eye on us,” says Louis, who has talent, and motivation on his side. “It’s something I hope for — to get into a good school and keep playing football for as long as I can. My uncle John played football. He had a chance to play university ball and didn’t take it. I want to go past that, and play university ball, and take my career further.”
As for the game itself, Louis likes the workout, the running, the contact, and the fact it’s not as cold playing football as it is being inside a cold arena wearing hockey skates.
“Zak is an extremely smart player. With his speed and ability to run the ball, he’s definitely one of the most valuable players in the league and other team’s key on him,” says Macgregor, who believes Louis has the talent to excel in university football at quarterback, running back or receiver. “Zak can definitely play university ball. He understands the offence better than the offensive coordinators and what we’re trying to do. He makes quick decisions. We’re really happy with him at any position on the field. That’s what’s so great about him — he’s so versatile.”
It’s one thing to understand the game, and have the skills. However, to make it your career, you also need to be a complete person. The result is the definitive team leader — and Louis would appear to be quickly developing into the type of guy.
“He’s more of a silent type around the guys and in the school. He’s been raised real well by his parents and his grandpa. He’ll do anything for you and he has great manners,” says MacGregor. “Now that you’ve made me think about it, he’s kind of the poster child for Broncs football. The other day in practice when huddle broke, he said, ‘okay offence, on me.’ Getting his own men motivated made me smile and think, ‘okay, when football is over and he goes on with his life, the leadership he’s learned on the field here he’s going to use. He’s going to be a great leader within the community.”
Game day… Local farmers may ask the Ponoka Broncs to play home games seven days a week to get their crops in the bin. PCHS has played three home games, and all have been in ideal weather conditions featuring blue sky and warm temperatures. MacGregor has noticed that, along with great fan support.
“The support we had today was excellent. There were lots of fans out and great school spirit. I saw a lot of community guys out watching the game. I think that was awesome.”
Next up… The Broncs take their 2-2 record to Fort McMurray for games against the Fort McMurray Trojans Oct. 15 and Fort McMurray Miners Oct. 16. The next game at PCHS goes Oct. 28 against Edmonton’s Victory Christian Crimson Knights.