After three consecutive eight-loss seasons, the Westshore Rebels have managed to flip those defeats over to the win column, their 8-1-1 record good enough to place them first overall in the B.C. Football Conference for the first time in team history.
Their quest to take this remarkable turnaround one step further and into the Canadian Bowl will begin on Saturday (Oct. 15) against the rival Vancouver Island Raiders.
It was way back on July 30 when the Rebels first served notice to the rest of the conference that they were a force, beating the Raiders for the first time in 25 tries. That historic win served as a launching pad for a season that no one expected, except for those within the Rebels’ organization.
“I believe in the staff we put together. I believe in the kids. I believe in the executive,” said head coach and general manager JC Boice. “I feel blessed that we are what we thought we were, but that’s where I kind of expected us to be.”
With the Rebels’ recent years’ performances falling short of conference rivals like the Raiders and the Okanagan Sun, it took the team a while to earn the respect they felt they deserved.
“Some people call it a chip on the shoulder, some people call it something to prove … the executive, coaching staff and players, we have something to prove,” Boice said.
Boice can be credited as the team’s principal architect, but the work of the coaching staff around him shouldn’t be downplayed, especially the contributions of associate head coach Shane Beatty, who serves as defensive co-ordinator and and strength coach.
Beatty was fresh off a 10-0 season with the Okanagan Sun when he parted ways with the organization earlier this year. Given his past success and 23 years of experience, Beatty would have had multiple suitors both in the BCFC and elsewhere, but he chose to tie his wagon to an organization that had won just six games over the previous three seasons.
“It wasn’t as much as what I saw in the past, it’s what I saw in [Boice] … highly intelligent, very driven. We started talking and I realized that we’re different in personalities, but we’re same in drive and I realized we could recruit together, and when you can recruit you can win,” Beatty said.
The calm, confident sideline demeanour of Boice would seem to contrast with Beatty’s loud and brash coaching style – he jokingly claims his voice simply carries better – but Beatty said they make it work.
“Sometimes it drives him nuts. Do we butt heads once in a while? Absolutely. But at the end of the day we both have the same goal in mind,” he said.
The Rebels have come to be known as a second-half team, frequently getting off to average starts before pummelling their opponents into submission in the final 30 minutes of play. Boice credits the work his team has put in off the field, starting in the spring, which has allowed the Rebels to get stronger as their opponents begin to tire.
“We’ve won every second half … Having coach Beatty and our staff train those kids, we just wear people down on both sides of the ball,” Boice said.
“We’re in the best shape of any team in the league and our second half results show that,” Beatty noted.
Despite all of the team’s success, the Rebels still aren’t where Boice wants them to be. The second-year Rebels coach expects continued growth, both with the players on the field and the broader program, and he’s hopeful the community will continue to get behind the team and help mentor his young players.
“I’ve got to create a scenario where these kids have more support, and the people in the community supporting these kids feel good about it, because they know they are making an impact on future lives.”
The Rebels host the Raiders on Saturday at Westhills Stadium, with the opening kickoff scheduled for 7 p.m.