If last weekend’s turnout for the Westshore Rebels mini-camp was any indication, fans can expect the team to make some noise in B.C. Football Conference play this season.
Not only is the number of committed and interested players way up from this time last year, the quality of athletes attending the team’s spring and main camps is also expected to be on the rise, according to head coach J.C. Boice.
“I love what I’m seeing,” he said during a break from scrimmage Sunday at Goudy Field.
“We laid the foundation last year with changing the attitude. Then we’ve built on that foundation with a really great off-season, adding coach (Shane) Beatty, getting the (training) facility going. And now you’re starting to see the results. We are so far ahead of where we were last year on both sides of the football. Just the conditioning of the kids, the attitude, the tempo, the focus – we’re just way ahead. I’m very excited.”
Most of the 42 first-year players and many veterans from last year’s fifth-place, 2-8 club will be back. But plenty of new recruits will also be on hand vying for spots, which means this summer will see the most competitive Rebels training camp in years.
“We’ve got 25 more kids than last year and this year we’ve started at well over 100,” Boice said, adding the increased field will mean cuts will have to be made. “We’re going to fill our roster with 75 of the most committed, hungry, well-behaved athletes we can – 75 kids this community can be proud of.”
Not only were there dozens of local players here who’ve been getting after it in the gym and on the field for the past several months, roughly 18 prospective Rebels from Alberta, Winnipeg and even Ontario took part in last weekend’s two-day camp.
Trey Campbell, a powerful, fleet-footed running back who arrived from Toronto last fall and has been working out here since, looks forward to the chance to crack the Rebels’ roster. He attempted to latch on with the Vancouver Island Raiders a couple of seasons back but never saw any game time.
“I just love what they invest in the kids,” he said of the Rebels organization. “Especially, we have this facility and we have the community behind us and the coaches genuinely care for us.”
Campbell is among a dedicated group of a dozen or so players who show up at the club’s new West Shore Parkway training facility for workouts at 6 a.m. with Beatty. “They truly care about us and they care about our future.”
Beatty, the Rebels’ new associate head coach and 2015 BCFC champion with the Okanagan Sun, was a vocal presence on the turf at Goudy Field. Often heard barking at his defensive players for missed assignments or being out of position, he also gave plenty of kudos when the D would come up with a big tackle.
As with Boice, he likes what he’s seeing so far.
“We’re going to be very big and fast on the d-line and the o-line, and it’s nice to see the pieces of the puzzle all coming together right now,” Beatty said.
With four defensive linemen likely destined for Canadian university ball, and another four on the offensive line showing great potential to go the same route, there’ll likely be more holes opened up on one side of the ball and closed on the other than in recent years.
Offensive linemen Aarmin Purewal and Jake Hall, plus d-linemen Jorge Monzon-Yarwood and Shaun Robinson all attended the recent B.C. Lions evaluation camp, designed to give the CFL team’s staff a look at the top junior players in B.C.
Boice said the Rebels have heard back from the Lions on the results of the camp, and he expects to see at least a couple of his players getting their pro careers started within a couple of years.
But for now, veteran Rebels like fifth-year safety Brody Uddenberg and third-year left tackle Kyle Harrington are excited to see improvements in the club that kicks off its season with a rare Sunday game July 24 against Langley at Westhills Stadium.
“I see a different level of team,” Uddenberg said, “I mean, everything’s higher up, everything’s faster, everybody’s more on the same page.”
Harrington, one of the guys who answers the bell for the early morning weight room call, enjoyed seeing the fresh young talent from Alberta enter the mix.
“It’s like a huge jump toward getting to where we want to be,” he said. “I’m just excited to play football. It’s been a long off-season.”
The Rebels full spring camp is set for May 20 to 22 at Westhills Stadium. For more information on the team or to inquire about volunteer positions or sponsorships, visit westshorerebels.ca.