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High school Class of 2021 looks to overcome loss of sports seasons

It is Steve Nash without the B.C. high school basketball championship in 1992 at St. Michaels University School.
Members of the Belmont Secondary Bulldogs Class of 2021 who are graduating to university teams. From left: Riley Berfelo, Riley Scheffer, Hayden Tiller, Sterling May and Gerren Hardisty. Submitted

It is Steve Nash without the B.C. high school basketball championship in 1992 at St. Michaels University School. Or University of Victoria great and two-time Olympian Gerald Kazanowski without his 1978 Nanaimo Islanders, judged by some as the greatest team in B.C. high school hoops history.

It is almost impossible to quantify the games not played, the high school memories not made, for the Classes of 2020 and 2021. The best of these athletes will go on to U Sports, Canadian colleges or NCAA without any high school games to look back on or stories to tell at reunions not to be.

The lost Class of 2021, with only video clips mostly from 2019 to sell themselves, still look forward to university careers across several sports. That includes five players from the Belmont Secondary Bulldogs in football. Offensive tackle Riley Scheffer has been recruited by the UBC Thunderbirds, offensive lineman Hayden Tiller by the Acadia Axemen, defensive end Sterling May by the York Lions, all of U Sports, and safety Riley Berfelo by Simon Fraser University of NCAA Div. II. Running back Gerren Hardisty is close to signing with Acadia.

There will always be that sense of what might have been for this Bulldogs group that was B.C. junior varsity runner-up two years ago.

“We had big hopes for this team, but they didn’t pan out because of the pandemic,” said Belmont head coach Alexis Sanschagrin.

“But the players have done a great job mentally of appreciating what they can and can’t control. They have not spent too much time feeling sorry for themselves. They understand the situation. It is a world pandemic.”

Yet it’s only human to have some emotions about the ­opportunities lost.

“It has still taken a toll because a senior Grade 12 year is always a special thing that produces great memories,” said Sanschagrin. “Some have handled it better than others, but I am proud of how resilient our group has been through all this.”

Sanschagrin, a safety who came out of the University of Western Ontario to play one season in the CFL for the Toronto Argonauts, also noted that football time is limited because of the nature of the sport and that seasons are precious.

“Your time in contact football is finite. There isn’t oldtimers football like there is in hockey, basketball and soccer,” said Sanschagrin, who has coached the Bulldogs since 2011. “So any lost season has a bigger impact in football than in other sports.”

But at least five of the ­Bulldogs will have careers ­post-pandemic.