OLDS — Three Olds football players who played in an international football tournament in Texas say it went pretty well for them.
The tournament, which featured the top players from Canada, the U.S and Mexico, ran from Feb. 24-26 in San Antonio, Texas. Before the tournament, practices were held on Feb. 22 and Feb. 23.
Making the trip from Olds were quarterback Radek Heppner, 15; defensive end Owen Reimer, 14; and receiver Blair Van Brunschot, 17.
They got the chance to go after trying out for – and making – provincial Selects football teams.
Heppner and Reimer were members of the Alberta Selects. Van Brunschot was a member of the University of Alberta Golden Bears Selects.
"I feel like it went pretty well,” Heppner said, noting the 14U team he played on featured Reimer as well.
In their first game, they beat the Manitoba Selects 21-14.
Heppner said about half of that team actually was made up of Texas players.
Heppner started that game as quarterback. He engineered two touchdowns – throwing for one and running in for another.
At one point, he drove his team about 83 yards downfield before throwing an interception.
Heppner played well enough that he played in five games because he was called up to play at the 15U and varsity level.
He started as a defensive back for a couple of games.
Heppner was asked how he did as DB.
“I played pretty well,” he said. “I mean, I made a few tackles. They never really ran to my side.”
Heppner was asked if, when playing QB, he got the pass protection he needed.
“Not really,” he said. “My line wasn’t the greatest. It was kinda bad. I had to scramble every play.
“Our team kept getting unnecessary penalties. That was costing us.”
He found out the hard way that in American football, you have to stay stock still before the ball is snapped. That resulted in a lot of flags for false starts and holding calls.
“I can’t even move my leg up when I’m snapping. I just have to stand there until it snaps,” Heppner said.
It’s the same for receivers, Van Brunschot indicated.
"You can’t move until the ball’s snapped or it’s a false start. In Canadian football, the receivers can move as much as they want if they’re off the line,” he said.
Reimer said he did pretty well.
He didn’t get any sacks and doesn’t believe he shared in any either, “but I did get a couple of good pressures a couple of times, a few tackles.”
Van Brunschot’s team only got to play two games and ended up with a 1-1 record.
“We lost our first game to Alberta 7-6 because our kicker missed the extra point on the last play of the game. Then in our second game we played Virginia and we beat them 27-0,” he said.
Van Brunschot had two receptions in that first game, both for about 10 yards.
But that was the end of his on-field action because he got injured.
“It was on my second reception. Just, I caught the ball and I started running upfield," he said.
“Two kids came and tackled me. One came on my other side and tripped me up a little bit and my head was down and then a kid hit the top of my head. And my neck, it kind of compressed down.
“Then I was seizing up and like, having muscle spasms. But it was nothing too serious.”
The day before he was interviewed last week, Van Brunschot went to see a chiropractor regarding his injury.
“It’s getting better now,” he said. “He just adjusted it and whatnot.”
The heat and humidity down in Texas was a problem for all three players.
Heppner said the temperature during the first two practices was in the 30 degree (Celcius) range and it was about 28 degrees during the first game.
But during the second game it was rainy and the temperature plunged to about 11 degrees.
"The first practice there it was so hot. The first two days I got sunburned, just from how hot they were. There were no clouds or anything, it just pure sun,” Van Brunschot said.
“Two days later it was cold. I had to wear, like a jacket almost.”
After participating in this tournament all three players are confident they can compete with American players.
“A hundred per cent,” Van Brunschot said.
Heppner said they played California and only lost 16-8, just a TD and two-pointer away from a tie.
"They (the American players) were fast," Van Brunschot said.
“They were really fast, yeah,” he said. “They didn’t have any really big players. They weren’t big like Owen. They were just really fast and athletic.”
“The biggest difference I saw between the Canadian kids and the American kids was just how hard they hit and how they can commit to their tackles and stuff,” Van Brunschot said.
“They just go flying and then they hit hard.”
"Well for most of the American players it’s like their life. Football’s their life,” Heppner said.
Van Brunschot agreed.
"Yeah, absolutely it is,” he said.
Before heading down to Texas, Heppner, Reimer and Van Brunschot said they hoped to do some sight-seeing.
They visited the Alamo, the fort where the Mexicans slaughtered many of the defendants after a 13-day siege in 1836.
"The Alamo was pretty cool, like the fortress,” they said.
"There was also a lego recreation of the Battle of the Alamo. It was really cool,” Reimer said.
They also liked a river walk in the city.
Another big attraction were the meals.
"The Mexican food was good,” Van Brunschot said.
Heppner hopes to play in the tournament next year.
If he does, “I’m probably going to bring my dad so I can have a car because they rented a car and they got to go to way more places than we did; Like the malls,” he said.