As the new school year gets underway, so does the new high school football season.
The Sturgeon County Composite High School Spirit and the Ecole Secondaire St. Albert Catholic High School Skyhawks both got off to strong starts as each team won their season-opener at Larry Olexiuk Field on Sept. 8.
Playing first in Thursday evening's doubleheader, the Skyhawks handily defeated the Holy Trinity Trojans 37-7.
The Skyhawks looked to be in fine form as they hope to improve on last season's 5-2 win-loss record in the Gilfillan Division of Metro Edmonton High School League.
Coming into his second year as a Skyhawk, running back Mason Clayton helped the team build up a lead early in the game as he scored two rushing touchdowns. At half-time, the Skyhawks held a 37-0 lead.
On the other side of the ball, the Trojans couldn't generate any momentum offensively until late in the fourth quarter when they managed to sneak in for a touchdown to avoid the shutout.
In an email, Skyhawks head coach of 25 years Sam Johnson said he's feeling optimistic about the upcoming season, which will also be his last as the team's coach.
"We have some good athletes that are now a year older and a year stronger," Johnson said. "We have several players that we hope will step forward in a leadership role."
Specifically, Johnson said a few players to look out for this season are Clayton, who played for the provincial team in the U17 Western Challenge over the summer; Justyn Baniak, a Grade 11 student who Johnson described as a "big, strong, bruising player,"; and Jordan Terassi, a senior who "has a motor that will not stop," Johnson said.
The Skyhawks' next game is on Sept. 15 at Clarke Stadium against the McNally Tigers.
In the second game of Thursday's Gilfillan Division doubleheader, the Sturgeon Spirit obliterated the Fort Saskatchewan Sting 65-0.
The Sting just couldn't come up with an answer for the Spirit offence, who had seven different players find the end zone.
What started as a seemingly competitive game was blown open by an unbelievable one-handed touchdown catch by Spirit receiver Stefan Visscher to make the score 21-0 at the end of the first quarter.
Whether the fans didn't see Visscher's catch — or everybody was too shocked to speak — the crowd fell silent before Visscher celebrated by standing in the centre of the field and placed a figurative crown on his head while his teammates shouted: "Give him his [expletive] crown!"
The Spirit proceeded to make the score 42-0 at the half, forcing the mercy rule to be applied for the rest of the game. The mercy rule means the rest of the game was played without any time stoppages.
"The overall quality of football is going to be up this year for sure,” Spirit head coach Chad Hill said in an interview.
The Spirit won six of their seven regular season games last year but lost to the Lillian Osborne Legends in the final game of the playoffs.
"It just feels great because we had a spring camp and a fall training camp, so it feels like we’re back on track," Hill said. "Our foundations are set and we’re not starting on square one again."
The Spirit have had 65 students sign up for this year's football team, which Hill said is the most he has ever seen.
“We didn’t know numbers would be this high," Hill said. "If the numbers remain like this, then next year we will look to start up a junior program."
The Spirits' next game is against the Ardrossan Bisons on Sept. 15 at Millwoods Park turf fields.
Playing in the Miles Division, the Paul Kane Blues don't play their first game until Sept. 16, where they'll take on the Strathcona Lords at Foote Field starting at 5 p.m.
Blues head coach Rob Strecker said he has been looking forward to the start of the season since the end of last year's season.
The Blues went 2-2 last season, and Strecker said the team's goal this year is to "stay healthy and compete in every game."
"We will be looking for big things out of a few guys," Strecker said, naming Josh Mah, a Grade 11 student who plays linebacker and receiver; Alex Fairbank, a Grade 11 student who plays safety and receiver; and Wyatt Horchuk, a senior running back and linebacker.
"We have a nice group of hard-working athletes trying to get better every day,” Strecker said.
Bellerose Bulldogs head coach Jason Lafferty was unavailable for an interview with The Gazette.
The Bulldogs opened their season on Friday, Sept. 9, with a tie against the Ross Sheppard Thunderbirds, 22-22.
Playing in the Carr Division, the Bulldogs will look to improve this year after the team lost five of their seven games last season.
Up next for the Bulldogs is a match against the Harry Ainlay Titans on Sept. 16 at Foote Field.