By Kevin J. Sabo
For the Ponoka News
Two Ponoka Broncs football players were able to participate in an incredible opportunity.
Carter Karwandy and Cole Carlson, both entering the high school football program in Ponoka this fall, were selected for the U16 Selects Central Huskies as part of the program’s summer series.
While a team is normally assembled to play games during the Alberta Summer Games, with the COVID-19 pandemic forcing the cancellation of the games in 2020, Football Alberta decided to put together the exhibition series.
Teams were formed in each of the eight zones, followed by a week of practice before exhibition games were held. For the Central Huskies, that game was played on July 18, 2021, where they played the South Knights.
Ponoka Broncs high school coach, and defensive coordinator for the Central Huskies, Cody Baird said he is happy with the quality of player the Ponoka program is putting out.
“We’re starting to see pretty high-level football players coming out of our program,” said Baird.
“It’s nice to see a lot of kids have the courage to try out for something like that.”
Around 70 youth competed for the 35 spots available on the roster for the Central Huskies. Karwandy and Carlson are only the second and third players ever to be selected for a zone team.
“(At the tryouts they) are looking for the best football players athletes in Central Alberta,” said Baird.
Ponoka Bantam Broncs head coach Todd Lewis was proud of what the two youth achieved.
“It’s a massive achievement,” said Lewis.
“We’re very excited for the program that we’re starting to produce players that are not only passionate, but able to compete and getting starting roles playing with the best of the best.”
Despite the Central Huskies coming out on the losing side of the exhibition game, Karwandy and Carlson had a good time. The final score was 35 to 27.
“It was a pretty fun time,” said Carlson. “It was a great weekend, and a great coaching experience.”
In addition to being given the opportunity to play with other high calibre players, football scouts were present at the game, looking at players to possibly select for the Alberta provincial team.
“This U16 team would be the stepping stone to starting a football career,” said Baird.
The tryouts for the Central Huskies were open to all central zone football players, provided they met the age criteria.
For Karwandy and Carlson, the road to being selected for the central zone team has taken years.
Karwandy has only been playing football for two years, starting in Grade 8, yet it is something he has become passionate about.
“I’ve only been playing so long, but me and football have kind of clicked,” said Karwandy.
“I’d like to play football as long as possible, or at least have a job that revolves around football.”
Coach Lewis agreed.
“(Carter) is a passionate kid,” said Lewis.
“His strength as a leader comes from that passion.”
Carlson has been playing for four years, starting in Grade 7.
“(Cole) was a kid who listened and put in 100 per cent effort into everything he did,” said Lewis.
“(He) is a leader by example. (He) puts in 110 per cent effort, and the other players learn from that, and get better.”
Both players will be able to take the experience they have gained back to the Ponoka Broncs when the team comes back together for the fall season starting in September.