Rams lead charge as high school football returns

Bruce Springsteen sang about the pitifulness of old athletes who can only talk about their glory days. But the high school student-athletes in the Classes of 2020 and 2021 won’t even get to do that later in life around pub tables.

The pandemic devastated high school athletics. Those in spring sports had their entire Grade 11 and Grade 12 careers wiped out. Fall sport athletes lost only one season and can count themselves fortunate, all things considered. The pandemic hiatus ends today as high school league sports remerge. First up is football.

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“It is exciting to be back on the field,” said Mount Douglas Rams head coach Mark Townsend.

Who knows where it can lead. The official website of the B.C. Secondary Schools Football Association makes that abundantly clear by prominently displaying pictures of alumni in the NFL Chase Claypool of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Chris Covington of the Los Angeles Chargers.

The B.C. high school Triple-A league opens with the Belmont Bulldogs hosting the New Westminster Hyacks at 1:30 p.m. at Goudy Field in Langford, Mount Douglas playing the South Delta Sun Devils at 5 p.m. at Royal Athletic Park and the ­Nanaimo District Senior Secondary Islanders at Sardis.

In the Double-A conference, the John Barsby Bulldogs host Timberline today at 2 p.m. in Nanaimo and the Ballenas Whalers meet the Langley Thunderbirds at 3:30 p.m. in Parksville.

Ballenas, which went 2-0 in exhibition, is ranked No. 1 in the province in Double-A and Barsby, 1-1 in preseason, is ranked No. 5. Mount Douglas, 2-0 in exhibition, is ranked No. 2 in Triple-A in B.C. behind Vancouver College Fighting Irish.

“We never consider the ­preseason rankings, as they don’t win championships, let alone games,” said Rams bench boss Townsend.

“Our goal is to go out each week and compete as hard as we can in the toughest and most challenging varsity Triple-A ­conference in the province. There will be no easy games, and we will need to play our absolute best in every contest and ­continue to improve at every opportunity.”

Having won six B.C. high school championships over 11 seasons, the previous in 2018, the Rams certainly qualify as a dynasty. But that word is never mentioned in the dressing room, despite a Rams alumni list that includes players who signed in the CFL such as ­Terrell and ­Marcus Davis, Alex Anthony, Alex Carroll, Cameron Judge and Zach Wilkinson and ­numerous players who have gone onto U Sports.

“We have enjoyed great team success over the past 12 years, but the 2021 version of the Rams are determined to write their own chapter in Rams football history,” said Townsend.

“As always, hard work, commitment and perseverance is an absolute must to get through the rough-and-tumble and into the playoffs. This year is special as it marks the 25th anniversary of Mount Douglas Rams football.”

This season’s Rams look to be a starry batch with Miltiadis Koulelis, Giovanni Linuzzi, Bryce Reuther, Sebastian ­Sibbald and Hunter Swift looking to springboard to U Sports.

Perhaps no team was harder hit by the pandemic than head coach Alexis Sanschagrin’s Belmont squad. There were big hopes in 2020 for a Grade 12 Bulldogs group that was B.C. junior varsity runner-up two years previous. But five ­Bulldogs graduated to U Sports without getting to play their Grade 12 year. As ­Springsteen sang: “Glory days, they’ll pass you by.” But nobody ever thought quite like this. Today, however, the re-emergence of high school sports begins.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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