With no high school football being played due to provincial health regulations under COVID-19, two city groups stepped up to give the older kids a chance.
Vernon Minor Football, along with Kamloops, formed community midget-aged teams, made up of high school players in Grades 10, 11 and 12.
“School sports are still in Phase 2, practice only,” said Mike Scheller, head coach of the Fulton Maroons who coached the Vernon community team. “Football is one game you cannot play as an adult. We wanted the kids, especially the Grade 12s, to have a chance to play football, with games and contact.”
In Vernon, 17 students from Vernon, Seaton and Fulton secondary schools played nine-man football against Kamloops with the two cities playing a home-and-home series. There are no playoffs.
The Vernon Midget Magnums got in 20 practices and two games, both won by Kamloops, by scores of 44-12 and 38-0.
“The season went well,” said Scheller, who guided the Maroons to a spot in the B.C. AA quarterfinals in 2019. “We had a great group of kids who worked hard and showed dedication to the game. I really appreciated their efforts. In the end, we just wanted to give these kids a chance to play. The game results were disappointing, but that was not the overall goal for this group.”
The coaching staff, said Scheller, was super happy with Grade 12s Dom Peterson, Sanjot Jammu, Rainer Lamprecht, Will Sattherwaite, Adam Sexton, and Quaid Willett who led this team.
Scheller and fellow high school coach Sean Smith of Vernon Secondary School thanked Vernon Minor Football for giving the school kids a chance to play.
“I’m grateful that Vernon Minor Football was able to provide some athletes the opportunity to play football this fall,” said Smith. “I really feel for those who have seen their high school seasons wiped out – especially our Grade 12s who lost their last season. Playing midget gave them a chance to play a couple of games, so a big thank you goes to Mark Budgen (Vernon Minor Football president) and Mike Scheller who were able to organize and get the team going.”
The Panthers are the two-time reigning B.C. AA High School Football champions who would have been trying for a three-peat in 2020. That will now come in 2021, minus this year’s Grade 12 players.
Smith said in September while the safety of the players and coaches comes first, he was told decisions to restrict school competition and have strict cohorts of 120 students were guided by science. And he’s having trouble with that explanation.
“I have a tough time believing any science that tells me that athletes can’t be within six feet of one another at my practice at 3:01 p.m.,” he said. “However, they can travel up to the college (in theory) at 3:15 p.m., put on a Vernon Minor Football uniform and full equipment, tackle and play games against teams from Kamloops or Kelowna without any of the restrictions we have, making contact tracing exponentially higher.
“I honestly can’t figure out what science was used to come up with that plan and it’s very frustrating for high school coaches and athletes who are stuck in the middle. I believe in safety, but that doesn’t stop when student-athletes leave our building – it should carry with them until they return to school the next day.”
Vernon Minor Football has had teams in Atom, Peewee and Junior Bantam divisions playing against teams in Kelowna and Kamloops in 2020.
Scheller thanked midget coaches Kevin Stecyk, Dave Hobbs and Roger Scales for their excellent work coaching the community group.