OLDS — Local teams won two of three games during Football Day in Olds on Oct. 16.
Teams played games in three age levels at Normie Kwong Field: peewee (Olds Huskies versus the Innisfail Cyclones), bantam (Olds Bulldogs versus the Springbank Phoenix) and high school (the Olds Spartans versus the Strathmore Spartans).
There was a bit of a festive atmosphere during the event. There were fans in the stands throughout the day. Pizza, pop and snacks were for sale in tents on the west side of the field.
In the first game, the Huskies pummeled the Cyclones 56-19.
The Bulldogs beat the Phoenix 16-0 in the second game.
The Spartans won the third game. Unfortunately, that winner was the Strathmore Spartans. They thrashed the École Olds High School Spartans 49-0.
A few kids got injured during the three games, but they were able to walk off the field, sometimes under their own power, sometimes with help from trainers.
The event was organized by the Olds Amateur Football Association (OAFA).
The weather was sunny, and relatively warm for mid-October, rising to 19 C. There was a strong southwest wind throughout the day, but players managed to cope with it, finding ways to still throw and kick the ball a decent distance.
“It was a great way to end the season against a really good team, Huskies head coach Dennis Yurchevich said afterward. “They put up a heck of a fight today.”
The Huskies were able to make big gains in the air and on the ground, scoring several touchdowns that way.
"We really stepped up our offensive game this year. We’re one of the few (peewee) teams that actually has a good passing game and it’s really worked out in our favour,” Yurchevich said.
Sixteen of 33 Huskies age out this year.
“I lose both my quarterbacks and I lose almost half my team,” Yurchevich said.
“I thought it was a great game. Both sides played really well. There was a lot of offence to be seen,” Cyclones head coach Dallas Haldorson said.
He was impressed with the Huskies passing game.
“They throw a lot for peewee league, more than you would normally see,” he said.
When the season ends, about 15 Cyclones will age out. However, they had about 13 nine-year-olds redshirting with them this season so they’ll move up next year.
One of the players Haldorson loses is his daughter, who is one of the team’s two quarterbacks, both of whom will age out this year.
“Next game I think we’re going to go with our third-string quarterback, give him a bit of time because he’s 11, so he’d be starting next year,” Haldorson said.
That next game is a playoff encounter this Saturday on the road versus Sylvan Lake.
Haldorson really enjoyed Football Day in Olds. He liked the whole concept.
“It’s kind of a fun football extravaganza. It’s good to be part of Football Day in Olds. I really appreciate it,” he said, adding he’d like to see Innisfail host one such day next season.
Overall, Bulldogs head coach Chase Molitor was pleased with their win.
“We had lost to them earlier in the season. Now we came back and showed what we can really do,” he said. “Now we go into playoffs and just go from there.”
However, there were a couple of alarming developments, including two plays in a row where the ball was snapped over the Bulldog quarterback’s head, resulting in lots of lost yardage.
There were a lot of fumbles too.
“We’ve got to get better holding the ball – a little more ball improvement or ball security and we’ll be going from there," he said.
Molitor was pleased with the Bulldogs’ running game and its passing game.
They were strong defensively too, including one point where they forced the Phoenix to turn the ball over in the shadow of the Bulldogs’ goalposts.
“There were a few scary times, but we managed to hold them off there,” Molitor said.
Springbank Phoenix head coach Dan Toews was a bit frustrated with their game.
“We didn’t play very well,” he said.
The Phoenix rarely threw the ball, relying mostly on the ground game.
“We don’t throw very much at all. And that’s my style," he said with a smile. “I’m old.”
There were a lot of fumbles during the game, mostly by Phoenix players.
“We’ve been working on it all year. Where we’re lacking is we fumble the ball too much... not great,” Toews said. But they’re 14-year-old kids, right?”
This was kind of an exhibition game for the Phoenix. They finished the regular season with a 5-0 record. They now have a two-game layoff before playoffs begin.
Toews too was impressed with Football Day in Olds.
“It was awesome,” he said. “When we rolled in here, seeing all the cars lined up and fans -- they did a great job, apart from the fact they didn’t let us win.”
The Spartans versus Spartans game got off to a tough start for the home team.
During the kickoff, the ball sailed over receiver’s head, forcing him to run back into the end zone and concede a single point. That happened a couple of times during the game.
But on the positive side, the OHS Spartans did manage to block a couple of Strathmore Spartans converts.
They also rambled downfield for a couple of good long runs of 20 and 30 yards or so. And they snagged at least one interception.
“It was a tough game. We were undersized coming into this game. But they’re an old team. The majority of their players are Grade 12s, the majority of our players are Grade 10s, so it’s part of the ebbs and flows of high school football,” ÉOHS Spartans head coach George Grant said.
So far, the Olds Spartans are 0-5 with two games left, including a playoff game, likely against the Strathmore Spartans again. They take on Drumheller this Thursday at 4 p.m.
“It’s been a tough season if you just look at the win/loss record, but the kids keep showing up. They’re working hard, they’ve improved immensely week after week, so it’s absolutely fantastic to be working with these guys,” Grant said.
He said that improvement is basically more confidence in themselves and their understanding of the game.
“I’ve got 17 Grade 10s, six of whom have never played football before, so the learning curve is steep,” he said.
“I continue to be committed to these guys and hopefully that – we've still got a couple of games left to go here this season and that we’ll finally push through and get ourselves our first win.
“They’re making mistakes, but they’re making them at full speed and I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
The Olds Spartans’ long runs impressed Grant.
"Our running game kind of shocked me a little bit today at how well it worked, but that now opens up quite a few options for us, moving forward,” he said.
“So I think that we can give a balanced attack against Drumheller, both in the air and on the ground and hopefully keep them on their toes and really force them to pull out their A game.”