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Sparvier leads skilled Grizzly attack
Tumble outta bed
And I stumble to the kitchen
Pour myself a cup of ambition
And yawn and stretch
And try to come to life
Jump in the shower
And the blood starts pumpin’
Out on the street
The traffic starts jumpin’
The folks like me on the job from 9 to 5
Dolly Parton’s ‘9 to 5’ lyrics floated across the football field Monday morning as the GW Graham Grizzlies gathered for the first day of training camp.
Grade 8s on the right.
The junior varsity squad in the middle and the varsity team all alone on the big field to the left.
Surveying the scene with a smile, GWG head coach Laurie Smith mused about the season to come.
“We got beat 62-0 by (Nanaimo’s) John Barsby last year, and I think we’ll beat them when we go out to play them this year,” Smith prognosticated. “(Robert) Batemen will be strong. Mission will be strong. Will Abbotsford even have a team? It’ll be competitive, and one blogger had us ranked eighth in the province. I actually think we’re better than that.”
GWG’s varsity roster is short on numbers compared to last year.
Smith had 39 players at his disposal in 2013 compared to 26 this year.
“But only 12 of the 39 we had last year had ever played football,” Smith countered. “On this year’s team, everyone has played at least three years. And most of them have played together since atom.”
Still, 26 players leaves little wiggle room for injury/absence, and requires many of Smith’s best players to play both ways.
Lack of depth could be the one issue that derails an otherwise promising season.
“We’re a little light at the varsity level, but we’ve got very good numbers at our Grade 8 and junior levels,” Smith said, focusing on the big-picture. “When all is said and done, I think we’ll have similar numbers to what we had last year, which is 100 kids on all three teams. And I’m happy with that.”
Though small in stature, Terrell Sparvier may have the biggest role on the senior Grizzlies. Right now, Smith views him as the senior squad’s starting quarterback.
“Being five-foot-six comes with its complications, but putting in the work and having such a skilled group of linemen, receivers and running backs that I can count on, that gives me confidence,” Sparvier said.
When Sparvier lines up under center, he’ll have Ryan Connolly and Treyvon Walsh as his outside receivers, with Kirkland Kennedy and Emerson Smith in the slots.
Brett Westad is back, ready to stake his claim as one of BC high school football’s top tailbacks. Collectively, Smith calls them the strongest group of skill-players he’s ever coached.
Sparvier knows he’s got a plethora of offensive weapons.
“Brett (Westad) is shifty, quick and strong, and whenever we need to dig ourselves out of hole, he’s the guy to go to,” Sparvier said. We have depth behind him too with Alex Bannerman and Tristan Davis. Then there’s all the receivers too. You can’t really go wrong with all the guys we have on offence.”
Indeed, the Grizzlies shocked American competition on a team trip to Oregon earlier this summer.
After being hammered in the same event the previous two years, GWG rose up to win a seven-on-seven passing tournament at Camp Rilea.
Going into it, most of their opponents considered them afterthoughts.
“We were the only Canadian team and we were huge underdogs, tabbed by everyone as mediocre,” Sparvier said, smiling. “The American players didn’t think much of us, but we showed them that Graham was there to play.”
Winning a seven-on-seven tourney is great, but it’s a while different animal passing in the face of an aggressive pass rush.
And depth concerns loom especially large along the offensive line.
“We’ve got Brayden Winger and Diego Pineda, who are both Team BC guys,” Smith said. ”Elijah Schellenberg was a Team BC guy last year, and we’ve got Josh Mander, who’s really really good. It’s a very capable group, but if a couple of them go down it’ll be challenging.”
“The linemen we have are dedicated and work their butts off,” Sparvier added. “What they lack in numbers they make up for in heart, effort and skill and I think we’ll be just fine.”
Most of GWG’s offensive stars are also its defensive stars.
Kennedy, for instance, leads the linebacking corps.
“Kirkland is our middle linebacker and he’s just dominant,” Smith said. “He’s a little mentally unstable with anger issues, which is good for a linebacker. He does everything we need him to do.”
Sparvier’s QB status won’t exempt him from doing double duty. He’ll line up at free safety.
Smith and Walsh at cornerback.
Pineda anchoring the defensive line.
“Playing both ways makes you fitter and seeing both sides of the game helps you understand things better,” Sparvier said. “A lot of the top-ranked AAA teams don’t have a whole lot of players. I don’t mind playing both ways and I know if I ever have to step out for a breather, there’s a whole bunch of reliable guys that’ll fill my spot.”
Get GWG Grizzly info online at grahamfootball.ca