Not everyone survived the Westshore Rebels spring camp, by most accounts the most intense, fast-paced junior football camp seen here in years.
For those who stuck it out and battled through the drills and scrimmages under the warm May sunshine at Westhills Stadium in Langford, the end result was to know what they need to work on for when the B.C. Football Conference club’s main camp rolls around at the end of June.
“We’re right where I thought we would be,” said head coach J.C. Boice. “We’re getting a lot of work done, but we still have a lot of work to do. We came here wanting to find out if we had kids that would truly compete, and we did. There was a lot of kids on both sides of the ball that came out and competed. Now the key is to take all that energy and go into skill development. I’m very excited, but now the work really begins.”
The club saw a huge jump in attendees at the camp. The 93 players registered was a three-fold increase over last season, when, as team president Elise Pastro joked, “if you had a pulse we’d invite you to camp.”
Coming off a second straight 2-8 season, but one in which the team’s braintrust earned national junior football executive of the year honours for its work rebuilding the club, the Rebels continue to promote a positive and professional atmosphere from top to bottom in the organization.
“It’s been a lot of blood sweat and tears,” Pastro said. “As a board of directors, we’ve been meeting every Monday since (last) season ended, and the countless hours and efforts of our board to get us to where we are today – it’s exceeded our expectations and more.”
It’s all part of the master plan to bring respectability and competitiveness to the once-vaunted club.
The team wanted Boice as head coach last year, but were unable to secure his services. That, said Pastro, forced the club to work on the team’s public image first, getting the players more visible in the community, before trying to transform the team on the field. Where the long-term vision for the club began being crafted last season, she said, Boice is helping to complete that vision.
“Years ago you could be the beer-drinking, party animal football player, (but) the sport has changed so much. You needed to be conditioned and ready to perform this weekend and there were some players who had their eyes opened to the level of competition that’s on this field,” Pastro said.
The difference in atmosphere at the U.S. college-style camp was not lost on two individuals who’ve been around a while.
Third-year defensive tackle and guard Tyson Morison could barely contain his excitement when asked about the change in vibe from past Rebels camps he’s attended.
“The energy is so different; it’s so upbeat and there’s so many new faces out here,” he said of the players and coaches. He predicted the team would finish “over .500” this summer. “With all the guys and the quality athletes out here, we’re definitely going to do something special this season.”
Assistant head coach and former Rebels player Sheldon Halliman echoed that sentiment.
“Spring camp was solid,” he said. “I know that main camp will be even better, which tells me that we’re going to head into the season running and it should be a really exciting season for the Westshore Rebels.”
The Rebels may have four players battling for the quarterback position this season, and Boice hinted that the team may run multiple QBs.
Incumbent Hunter Lake “progressed a lot” through the weekend, Boice said, and highly-touted northern Alberta high school grad Talon Davies performed as advertised.
But Sooke’s Alex Wright, who hasn’t played much the last two years, showed enough chops “to get himself into the hunt,” Boice said. Add in Devoun Hallams, a 6-2, 200-pound stud whose rights are owned by defending BCFC champion Langley Rams – he’s seeking his release from the club to attend school here – and “it’s going to be a very interesting competition,” Boice said.
Boice said as many players as wish to work out with the team and learn about football will be encouraged to stick around through the season, but the team will have a 45-man roster limit for games.
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