Belmont Bulldogs players gained valuable game experience and helped give those south of the border a taste of the quality of B.C. football, during the inaugural High Roller Football Showdown in Las Vegas.
Team B.C.’s under-18 squad, which included Grade 11 Bulldogs lineman Dontae Bull and defensive specialist Brett Milligan, led throughout in beating Team Vegas USA 23-20.
Grade 10 Belmont student Nathaniel Blondeau was a starting receiver on the U16 Team B.C. that beat the San Jose Hitsquad 28-0, after dropping their opener 14-6 to Team Vegas. The games, including two involving a Grade 8 B.C. team, took place Jan. 20.
Not only did the school send three players to this international football showcase, Belmont head coach and six-year Team B.C. coach Alexis Sanschagrin served as defensive co-ordinator for the U18 team. That unit gave up just two touchdowns to the talented and athletic Las Vegas offence.
Sanschagrin said Belmont generally has between 15 and 20 players per year commit to what, for those who make the final cuts, is a year-long process. The program begins with initial tryouts at sites around the province, involving roughly 400 players – a Victoria session happens Feb. 21. That number gets cut down to about 100 for a May long weekend skills camp. It’s further cut to about 50, then come December coaches select the top 35 players in each age group to represent B.C. in international competition.
“It’s great for the ones who make it all the way to the end, but the process of measuring yourself and seeking out the challenge (benefits all players),” Sanschagrin said.
Playing for Team B.C. is good for young players, he added, as it gives them a chance to experience American competition and see what type of athletes those programs produce.
As for Bull, Milligan and Blondeau, he said each has good potential, but the Team B.C. exposure “allows them to believe in themselves and show that they can compete at that level.”
Vancouver Island was well represented in Las Vegas. Belmont, Mount Douglas, Nanaimo’s John Barsby and Parksville’s Ballenas secondaries collectively placed 10 players and two coaches on the U18 team, seven players on the U16s and six on the Grade 8 squad.
Belmont’s senior team will be boosted by the return of the Team B.C. trio next fall, not to mention the collection of players who attend tryout camps leading up to winter 2017 competitive road trip.