The future of football at South Delta Secondary School has emerged from an 18-month hiatus very much alive and well.
When the Sun Devils junior varsity team took to the field for its season opener against the Terry Fox Ravens last Thursday at Dennison Park, a record 39 players were in uniform, including 15 that had never played an organized game before. The hosts did manage to pull out an exciting 8-7 victory thanks to a fourth quarter touchdown and a two-point conversion. However, the big winner on the day was the SDSS football program itself.
In general, tackle football has seen a downward trend in participation numbers in recent years. Throw in a pandemic that shutdown play for an extended period and there was certainly little momentum heading into the 2021 season. That’s reflective with the current SDSS senior team that has a roster of about 19 players after several seasons of being a provincial contender.
Yet, what the Sun Devils do have going for them is a tireless group of volunteers, from coaches to parents, that are making the high school football experience attractive. Thursday’s game had a terrific atmosphere complete with sponsorship signs on the sidelines, a concession stand and team merchandise for sale. Throw in plenty of students and parents watching and it was easy to see why teens would want to be part of it.
Scott Martens is the junior varsity head coach and a PE teacher at the school who also happens to be an SDSS graduate.
“I think it’s probably that pent up energy and the opportunity to get back to something. I also think it’s a good, strong community football program we have here,” said Martens. “It helps now being in the PE department and I teach a lot of junior classes. I was in some of these kids’ ears (last year) that they should be playing. Especially those guys that are not playing other sports that are good athletes or maybe they are a lineman body type that don’t necessarily play other sports. That’s why I love football. We probably have a 5-foot-2, 110-pound guy and a 6-foot-3, 250-pound guy and they both have roles and they both are contributing.”
Martens and his staff’s challenge is making sure each player is gaining valuable experience and they stay engaged. That was accomplished in the opener with everyone getting playing time, including a pair of starting offensive lineman that were raw rookies.
“We have a lot of guys who have been doing flag football within the community,” added Martens. “There has been a huge amount who have played 7-on-7 but have never played tackle. We have a lot of receivers and defensive backs and we have some size too. Seeing the growth they already have had in the time they have been here is great.
“I’m so excited to coach these guys up and hopefully my job is to retain all of them for the next three or four years."
A pair of Grade 9s combined for the Sun Devils’ lone major as quarterback Dominic Dumas found 6-foot-2 Dawson Sjoberg in the end zone from 13-yards out.
Morgan Maccubin secured the win with an interception in the final two minutes.
South Delta travels to Mercer Stadium Thursday to take on the New West Hyacks.