Coaches are not about to punt the start of the high school football season.
The ongoing teachers job action could wreak havoc on school sports if it continues to drag on, but the Pitt Meadows Marauders will kick off their Friday Night Lights games tonight.
The Marauders have community coaches, so the senior and junior teams have been preparing for the upcoming season despite the negotiations impasse between the B.C. Teachers’ Federation and provincial government.
At 7:30 p.m., Pitt will host Mount Boucherie of Kelowna in their first exhibition game. The visitors are a triple-A team, whereas Pitt competes at the double-A level.
“It should be a competitive game. We planned some harder games, so the kids get the best out of it,” said Pitt head coach Matt Todd.
He had a second exhibition game set up for next week in Kamloops, but that was cancelled because of the strike.
Todd is working on getting his kids another game. B.C. Secondary Schools Football has been forced to cancel 23 games during the season’s opening weekend due to the strike.
Whether the regular season opener starts on schedule, with Pitt to host the fifth-ranked Abbotsford Collegiate Panthers on Sept. 19, remains to be seen.
“I don’t know yet – it’s week by week,” said Todd.
For him, it’s a question of letting the kids play. He has a squad that is loaded with Grade 12s, and some have been playing football for Pitt for five years.
“It’s their Grade 12 year, and they’re really looking forward to it,” he said.
High school football players sacrifice a good part of their summer vacation preparing for the season, running, hitting the gym, and then running full practices.
“These kids have worked pretty hard in the off-season, lifting weights, and this is their last chance.”
Mack Dhami is a fullback and linebacker, and one of the guys who has a chance to play at the next level – junior football or CIS.
“He has potential – it all depends on how he does this year.”
Other guys with a potential future in football: quarterback Jake Schuster; one of his favourite targets, slot receiver Ryan Beaubien, who also plays outside linebacker on defence; and Shaq Naicker, a lineman who plays on both sides of the ball.
The school is also running a junior team, which includes players in grades 8, 9 and 10.
The Samuel Robertson Technical senior boys are also scheduled to play today, at 12:30 p.m. at Nanaimo District.
The organizers are prepared to extend the season as much as they can, or cut down the number of league games to be played, in order to save the football season.
Some of the other early sports that are being affected by the strike include volleyball, boys’ soccer, aquatics, cross-country running and field hockey. How much opportunity is lost to athletes in these sports depends on how long the strike lasts.