Bringing 12-man football to Ponoka Secondary Campus was meant as a way to get kids involved in a team sport but it did so much more.
The senior Broncs may have finished their second season in 12-man football without winning a single game but that hasn’t stopped fans from showing their support. The two home games they played showed moments of clarity in their plays. A stronger defensive line appeared to boost players’ confidence, which seemed to bring the offensive line together to complete some solid first down plays too.
“The key is to string those moments of brilliance together,” says coach Scott MacGregor.
The last regular season game held Oct. 11 against the Camrose Trojans started sluggish and a turnover after a team kick caused MacGregor to call a time out.
“We seem to be a second-half team…And we want to change that for our playoffs,” explained MacGregor.
The Broncs have one last consolation playoff game in Red Deer Oct. 16 and MacGregor wants to finish strong. He looks forward to working with new players, some of which will be coming from the junior Broncs bantam football team.
One aspect of the football program MacGregor is most proud of is in retaining students. He sets rules for players that they must do well in school if they are going to play on the team.
Quarterback Ruger Dye, Grade 12, says players look past the colour of their skin and think only as a team. There is an even mix of First Nations and Caucasian players and Dye is proud of what the team has done to strengthen bonds. On bus trips to games players all sit together. “Everyone’s everywhere. They’re all just dudes,” said Dye.
He feels this has helped him grow and mature and players have graduated because they wanted to continue with the team. “This team helps you find the person as you are.”
When Jacobi Buffalo, Grade 12, started in the six-man football team three years ago, his grades were dropping. Playing for the Broncs helped him focus. “After I joined football, I felt I was doing good.”
Carson Louis, Grade 12, has never looked back after joining. He has enjoyed the experience and finds he is tougher mentally and physically. Lessons learned in football transferred into his schoolwork, explained Louis.
He feels several students would have dropped out of school had they not joined the team.
“The team has definitely helped them a lot,” says Louis.
This is Ashton Soosay’s first year on the team. He is in Grade 10 and looks forward to seeing how much better the team can get in upcoming years. “I just hope we get better and stronger.”
Junior Broncs looking forward to next season
Coach Cody Baird says despite having a winless regular season, players did not lose sight of their goals. The junior Broncs players are still learning how the game works and yet players are excited to learn more.
“I think we’re way ahead of where we thought we would be,” said Baird.
Coaches have been working closely with Grade 9 players, who will be moving into the senior Broncs team next year, to prepare them for the experience. “That helps take fear away.”
Players have also shown resolve in their games despite losing some tough games. They shook off the loss and were ready to face their next opponent.
“Whether you lose or come out close or just get stomped,” explained Baird.
The junior Broncs have a playoff game but Baird has not yet been given a date.