Storm springs into midget season
St. Albert team huddles up in midget spring league football
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Saturday, Apr 12, 2014 06:00 am
Clarke Park – Midget spring league football officially kicks off a new high school season for players like Nick Cowan.
The Grade 11 Bellerose Bulldog is a third-year fixture with the St. Albert Storm who has embraced the spring league pigskin format with open arms.
“It’s a blast,” Cowan said after Wednesday’s 28-21 exhibition loss to the Parkland Predators. “It helps your addiction to football. It’s one thing to be lifting weights in the off-season but you’ve got to get out and get back into football shape for your football team.”
A condensed league schedule in the Capital District Minor Football Association prepares players for their high school spring camps and Football Alberta tryouts.
“It gets you more conditioned. It’s a lot of running and then you’re in shape when the heat comes in spring camp when you’re going and going and getting back up to speed with your high school teams,” said Cowan, the 2013 recipient of the Bulldogs’ most outstanding defensive player award.
Historically, the first time on the gridiron for midget teams comprised of Grade 9, 10 and 11 players is either at a jamboree or in an exhibition game. Depending on the weather, outdoor practices are very few if any at all after a steady diet of workouts in a gym or fieldhouse before the season starts.
“It’s a little tough but once we get out and start hitting it goes a lot better,” said Cowan, who led the Bulldogs in tackles last year at linebacker in metro Edmonton division one.
The Storm are one of three Tier 2 teams in the eight-team league. A seven-game schedule that ends the first weekend in May includes two exhibitions against Tier 1 teams, plus two playoff contests. No home games are scheduled at Riel Recreation Park this year.
The Storm are 0-1 in Tier 2 and winless in three games overall after falling to Parkland.
Last year’s team struggled to win a game in the Tier 1 and 2 division after going 2-4 as the Tier 2 playoff winners in 2012.
Last month’s season-opening 37-7 exhibition loss to the Tier 1 Lloydminster Red Dogs was followed by last Saturday’s 37-28 Tier 2 loss to the West Edmonton Raiders. The Storm chipped away a large halftime deficit against the Raiders’ second stringers for a respectable outcome. Both games were played at Fuhr Sports Park in Spruce Grove.
“It was a better all-around performance by our team today. We’re still making mental errors and we’ve just got to correct those at practice and watch game film on it,” said Cowan, a Storm co-captain who lines up at linebacker and left tackle.
In the second quarter, after a couple of Storm turnovers, Parkland opened the scoring with a touchdown pass from inside the Storm 40-yard line and the convert was good.
The Storm drove the second-half kickoff behind the scrambling abilities of quarterback Morgan Sherban, the Gilfillan Haliburton MVP for the division three champion Fort Saskatchewan Sting, and Jessy Lessard’s nine-yard TD run finished it off. The convert attempt was unsuccessful.
Parkland replied on its next possession with a seven-yard TD run and the convert was good.
On the first play in the fourth quarter, a 95-yard romp down the sideline made it 20-6 for Parkland.
After the kickoff, the Storm huddled up at the Parkland 50 and Jace Mix, the Grant Yuzyk Trophy winner as the pool A MVP in the metro junior league with the Salisbury Sabres, busted loose for 40 yards and on the next play Sherban crossed the goal line. On the two-point convert Mix scored to cut the deficit to 20-14.
Parkland went two-and-out on its next possession and Mix returned the punt roughly 70 yards into the end zone. Dane Houlden’s convert put the Storm on top 21-20 with under nine minutes to play.
Parkland regained the lead with a three-yard TD run after converting a third-and-four gamble at the Storm seven. On the two-point convert, the Storm were flagged for a horsecollar tackle and Parkland made the most of its second opportunity from within spitting distance of the end zone to close out the scoring with three minutes remaining.
“It was a good battle. They’re tier one (2-0 in the five-team standings) and we’re not quite as talented but we have a bunch of young kids and this is good experience playing a tier one football team and I don’t think they will get a better test this year,” said Cowan of the Storm lineup of 17 Grade 9, 12 Grade 10 and nine Grade 11 players.
The next game is Tuesday against the Tier 1 Leduc Cats at 6 p.m. at Clarke Park. The Cats lost 32-8 to the Raiders last month.
Cowan, 16, is confident the Storm will rise to the occasion.
“The big thing is we’re getting our plays down and we’re executing a little bit better now and that’s going to help us in our next game,” said the 2012 outstanding defensive player on the 9-0 junior Bulldogs, winners of the first junior football championship in Bellerose history.