It’s one final season for a family that has made a tremendous impact on the local football fields for more than a decade.
When the South Delta Sun Devils welcome the Terry Fox Ravens on Saturday (1:30 p.m.) at Dennison Park it will be the last time the McDonald family will be involved in a season opener.
Ben McDonald is the team’s starting quarterback. The Grade 12 standout is generating plenty of interest from schools for his ability as a football and lacrosse player.
His father Bruce is winding down a six-year run as a key member of the Sun Devils coaching staff. It actually began across the street at Dennison Park with the South Delta Rams community program with his older sons Jack and Grant. Both are now playing at the University of Calgary.
Bruce thrived at basketball attending Killarney Secondary but his athletic career switched gears once he arrived at UBC and played under legendary coach Frank Smith. He helped the Thunderbirds win the Vanier Cup in 1986 and three years later was drafted by the Edmonton Eskimos.
It was also football that introduced him to his wife when he helped out coaching the annual “Tea Cup” women’s game between Nursing and Home Ec students.
“It has been amazing,” Bruce reflected. “Grant was actually the first one to start playing in Atom. Jack came over the next year after playing soccer. I was never one to force my kids to do anything. I was part of Frank Smith’s coaching staff and now here were these eight-year-olds. I didn’t know if I was cut out for this.”
It was Jeff von Ende who convinced Bruce to join his Rams coaching staff and he would never look back — enjoying plenty of success rotating from Jack to Grant’s teams year after year. Once Jack reached Grade 11, he added the Sun Devils to his duties.
During the 2014 season, Bruce somehow juggled three teams as Grant was starting for the Sun Devils and the Bantam Rams in his Grade 10 year. He also was helping out with Ben’s Junior Bantam team.
That was also a special year for the SDSS program that culminated with its first-ever provincial title at the AAA level.
“It was magical,” Bruce continued. "The Monday they showed up at practice for championship week, they were all business. I knew we were going to be ready. It was so fun."
“(The entire football community) was so excited to be there. That’s the most beautiful thing of all this. Our social circle. The amount of good people and good families that have been in and around the programs has been so rewarding.”
Today, Bruce’s final task is helping the Sun Devils take what might be their last serious run at another B.C. title in some time.
“Every year is its own year,” he added. “Sometimes it surprises you good and bad. We are really over the moon at how this group of kids have come together so quickly. We figure we are a month and half ahead of where we were last year. It’s a pretty cohesive group.
“In 2014 we had all these athletic and aggressive kids. This year we have the same sort of thing. We have high hopes for them.”
For the Sun Devils to make a deep playoff run it will take a huge season from his youngest son — something Ben is certainly capable of.
He is attracting interest from assortment of schools on both sides of the border, including Calgary. What makes the decision so complex is a potential field lacrosse career at the collegiate level.
Ben led the B.C. Junior “B” Tier One League in scoring this past season and helped the Islanders win the playoff championship. He has already toured Ohio State University during his Grade 10 year to play field lacrosse.
“It’s me deciding what sport I want to play. I have to make a decision which will happen after the football season,” said Ben.
At least two U.S. schools — Delaware and Stony Brook — would consider Ben continuing to play both sports.