INNISFAIL – There was a lot of excitement coming in and out of the huge Sea-Can at the Jim Brittain Athletic Field.
It was equipment day for many of the young football players with the Innisfail Cyclones’ peewee and bantam teams.
Since mid-August they have practiced 10 times for the upcoming season. The season and home opener for the peewee team against their arch-rivals to the south, the Olds Huskies, is scheduled for Sept. 11.
“We’ve been handing out equipment all week. It does take some time to get fitted. We only do a couple at a time and we want to make sure the helmets get fitted correctly,” said Dallas Haldorson, head coach of the Cyclones peewee team.
Haldorson is looking to get his squad, along with the bantam team, in tip-top shape for the regular season following last year’s heavily modified version of play.
Because of provincial government COVID guidelines for outdoor athletic group sports, including all Central Alberta Football League (CAFL) and Central PeeWee Football League (CPWFL) teams, the Cyclones were mandated to play under a cohort of 50 people, which included players and coaches. The only Innisfail Minor Football Association (IMFA) team able to play was the peewee team, and their COVID season only allowed them to play the Olds Huskies five times.
The peewee Cyclones lost all five games.
“Olds had a really good year. We are looking to get some payback this season,” said Haldorson, quick to add his respect to the Olds’ squad and their head coach. “Coach Dennis Yurchevich did a terrific job last year getting his team ready and we are looking forward to playing them again on the peewee side.”
Haldorson is enthusiastic for his team's prospects in the upcoming season of 9-man minor football. He noted the young boys and girls are eager the learn the finer points of girdironing.
“The kids that are here have been getting some good football knowledge and conditioning to be ready for the season,” he said. “We noticed with kids getting back from holidays are numbers are starting to grow. I expect a few more kids to join once school starts.”
Haldorson already has many volunteers helping to get the teams ready for a new season, including a couple of former Cyclones players.
“I wish more people were playing football and knew about it. I think it is very important for the community. It played a huge part in my childhood,” said 18-year-old Blake Schneider, who is helping with coaching duties after playing in the bantam level and for the high school Cyclones squad. “I know most of the kids. I met most of them before. I know they can do great things, and they are a very good group of kids.”
This year’s Cyclones teams will have a full regular season and playoffs this year against other CAFL and CPWFL teams. Boys and girls between the ages of 10 - 12 as of Dec. 31 are eligible for peewee play. Others are eligible for bantam action if they are between the ages of 13 to 15, as of Dec. 31, and are in Grade 9.
As of Aug. 25, the peewee team had about 14 to 15 players while the bantam had 12 to 14. Haldorson wants to get at least 18 for both teams. He noted association officials are hoping they will attract interest at this year’s Fall Registration on Aug. 31 during the Market on Main. They will also be recruiting in the schools.
Mostly though, Haldorson is just happy to get all the kids back on the field, especially under normal conditions with no COVID restrictions.
Even though his peewee team may be coming into the 2021 season after not recording a single victory last year he still sees significant potential for a better season.
“I still think it was a great year (2020) for development. Some programs did not play at all last year, so they completely lost a year of development,” he said. “Even though it was a tough year most of the players came back, and they had a full year of development. I have to keep moving forward.”