Westshore Rebels running back Trey Campbell follows a block from receiver Birhanu Yitna during the Canadian Bowl on Saturday. Campbell earned the team's Most Improved Award on offence.

Westshore Rebels should remain strong into next year

With several key players set to return in 2017, the Westshore Rebels will have a good chance to replicate this year's success.

With a packed grandstand and his daughter singing the national anthem, Westshore Rebels head coach JC Boice – an American by birth but a proud Canadian who will be getting his citizenship shortly – had what he calls a surreal moment just before the opening kick of Saturday’s Canadian Bowl.

“It was a beautiful feeling and just a great deal of pride for all the people who have come together and really turned this thing around,” Boice said.

The championship didn’t end the way the organization hoped it would – the Rebels fell to a tough Saskatoon Hilltops side 37-25 – but Boice said the loss will have immense benefits for the program going forward.

“We continue to mature. The game was very good for the program long term. It really showed us what we have to do as a program to be competitive that consistently at the national championship level.”

Looking ahead, Boice expects a few players to move on to the Canadian university ranks, while speedy receiver Nathaniel Pinto and defensive lineman James Bradley are expected to get a look from CFL teams.

Despite those losses, the Rebels are likely to return key players such as running back Jamel Lyles, defensive lineman Kent Hicks and offensive lineman Christian Krause, giving them an excellent chance to match or better their 2016 result.

“We’re going to end up losing less people than anybody else in the league,” Boice said.

Recruiting should also receive a boost given Westshore’s new status as a powerhouse.

Meanwhile, among the team’s coaches, Boice sais he is keen to return but he’ll be weighing his options over the next few weeks before making a final decision on his 2017 intentions and defensive co-ordinator Shane Beatty appears to be in a similar boat.

“There’s a lot of details to work out but my heart is in the West Shore,” Boice said.

Earlier this week the Rebels handed out their team awards. Here is a list of the winners:

Community Citizen of the Year – Ryan AllardLeadership Excellence – Alex WrightOutstanding Teammate – Tyson Thompson and Aarmin PurewalRebel Toughness – Jeremie DrouinDefensive Most Improved – Adam MasurOffensive Most Improved – Trey CampbellDefensive Rookie of the Year – Brandon GandireOffensive Rookie of the Year – Kain MelchiorTop Defensive Linemen – Jeremie DrouinTop Linebacker – Matt PastroTop Defensive Back – Brody UddenbergTop Offensive Linemen – Christian KrauseTop Receiver – Nathaniel PintoTop Offensive Back – Ashton MacKinnonSpecial Teams Player of the Year – Jamel LylesDefensive Player of the Year – Kent HicksOffensive Player of the Year – Jamel LylesTeam Most Inspirational – James BradleyTeam Most Valuable Player – Jamel LylesRein Eberle Volunteer Award – Rob CherneffJim Worth Memorial Plaque –  Brody Uddenberg

joel.tansey@goldstreamgazette.com

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