2019 Ponoka Broncs file photo. (Deanna French photo)

2019 Ponoka Broncs file photo. (Deanna French photo)

Ponoka senior Broncs football coach reflects on turbulent 2021 season

Baird: ‘We dropped down to whatever we needed just to keep football alive.’

Still suffering repercussions from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ponoka senior Broncs had a challenging fall 2021 season.

With no spring training camp and enrollment numbers in the low twenties, running a full 12-man football team proved to be a challenge so the decision was made early on by head coach Cody Baird to drop the team down to a nine-man division.

Unfortunately, nine-man play is not currently recognized as a playing level in schools, so the team was required to book it’s own exhibition games with schools facing similar circumstances.

In the seven games the team played during the fall, they played five at the nine-man level, and due to short numbers, a pair of six-a-side games against Camrose, finishing the season with three wins and four losses.

“We dropped down to whatever we needed just to keep football alive,” said Baird.

“Football has had lower numbers all over Alberta.”

In spite of the challenging year, Baird does see reason for optimism in the Broncs program.

First, only five of his team members are graduating in 2022, and there are a few players coming up from coach Todd Lewis’s junior Bronc’s team.

Another positive Baird sees, despite the challenges, is because of the jumping between jumping between six- and nine-man football, the team’s overall football awareness increased more than it otherwise would have.

A negative though, according to Baird, is that due to the changes the players didn’t develop in one position of the sport the way they normally would have.

“It was kind of give and take,” said Baird. “Their football I.Q. was raised.”

Baird is hoping that with the pandemic entering its third year this spring and things — hopefully — getting back to something closer to normal, that the senior Broncs will be able to host their spring training camp in 2022.

“Hopefully we can get kids engaged, declare a sport (12-man, nine-man, or six-man football), and have an unreal season,” said Baird.

In the meantime, Baird is encouraging his players to participate in any of the other sports the school offers, to grow the school spirit.

“We’re all Broncs in the end,” said Baird.

“To have a Broncs brain, to have Broncs culture, makes (the player) much more of a leader in the end.”