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Sturgeon, Jasper Place high schools begin new football tradition

'Red and Black Trophy' creates higher stakes for Spirits, Rebels
Sturgeon Spirits players hoist the Red and Black bowl trophy in the air after their victory against the Jasper Place Rebels. SUPPLIED/Glen Freeman (Amused Images)

Football teams from Sturgeon Composite and Jasper Place high schools took to Larry Olexiuk Field in St. Albert on Saturday, June 8 for a new yearly competition devised by the teams’ head coaches, Chad Hill and Alex Lesko.

The victor’s prize was an unusual trophy: a twisted, steel chalice, welded together, adorned with metal roses and painted red and black, the signature colours of both teams.

Hill, the Sturgeon Spirits head coach, has a long history with Jasper Place Rebels coach Lesko. Lesko played for the Bellerose Bulldogs when Hill coached that team, and Lesko also coached alongside Hill at Sturgeon before moving to Jasper Place.

“We thought, 'Let's do something fun,'” Hill said. “When I was the Bulldogs coach, we would always play the Austin O'Brien Crusaders. And it was really competitive, but it was also a developmental time as well … We thought, 'How could we crank it up a notch?'”

That’s how the Red and Black Bowl was born.

Junior teams from both schools, including Sturgeon’s first official junior team that will be fielded later this summer, faced off in the first half of the competition, and the senior teams took up the latter half.

Creating a trophy and giving the competition a name added more serious stakes to the games and energized the players, Hill said.

“Bragging rights is one thing, but if you have a really cool-looking trophy that can sit in your trophy case, that's fantastic,” he said.  “And it was obviously good sportsmanship on both sides, but it was a heated game. It was competitive. Sometimes, you would have thought that it was a playoff game in October.”

Despite being a division below Jasper Place, the Spirits won both games 6-0 and 6-0.

Players braved wet, windy weather, with gusts blowing so hard that sometimes throwing the ball was difficult, Hill said.

Senior Spirits receiver and defensive player Tanner McBride said the team felt a bit nervous until they saw their junior counterparts’ success on the field.  

“I think we were motivated to punch above our weight class and take down some old friends,” he said. “Our defence played amazing, besides some flags that we took, and we slowly chipped away on offence until we could finally get a touchdown, and from there that was about it.”

The Red and Black Bowl was a good opportunity for the team to see some spring game action, McBride said. Competitive games in high school leagues don’t start until late summer.

“I think that gives us a huge confidence boost,” he said. “We feel great about ourselves. But at the same time, we want to maintain our goal of winning a city championship. And we know that if we can take down a Division 1 team, that means that we can take down anyone.”

Hill expects that the competition will happen again in future years, and he hopes that it will create camaraderie and a friendly rivalry between the two teams.

More teams could be invited to play in the future, but Hill and Lesko haven’t yet discussed the possibility, Hill said. “However it plays out, I'm sure this will be the first of many to come.”

Sturgeon students Cordelia Labbe and Addison Berry designed and welded the competition’s unique trophy, which Hill requested look “gnarly and tough.”

“We came out on top, and that cool trophy gets to stay home here,” Hill said with a laugh.  “I didn't want to see that in the Jasper Place trophy case.”

About the Author: Riley Tjosvold

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