After 28 years on the job, there’s not much at this point that W.J. Mouat Hawks football coach Denis Kelly hasn’t seen.
Friday night, though, was a new experience for him – a high school football game, without high school actually being in session.
It’s one of the more surreal elements of the public school labour dispute, where classes have been cancelled but teacher/coaches like Kelly and Dan Village, his counterpart with the Robert Bateman Timberwolves, are keeping football season alive by continuing to volunteer their time on the gridiron.
“It’s good to have it,” said Kelly after the senior AAA Hawks completed a 46-13 victory over their AA crosstown rivals from Bateman under the Friday night lights at Mouat Field.
“The kids enjoyed it, and both teams had a good night. It’s what you should be doing. This whole strike should be finished and over with, but it might be just beginning.”
As beginnings go, Friday night was a good one for the Hawks’ Jacob Dodd.
Stepping into the starting tailback job most recently held by Maleek Irons – the most prolific rusher in B.C. high school football history – Dodd showed he’s more than ready to carry the torch, rushing for 169 yards and scoring five touchdowns. Four of his majors came on the ground, and the fifth was on a 10-yard pass from quarterback Noah Dietrich.
“You don’t really think about it when you’re out there having fun,” Dodd said, reflecting on the pressure of replacing Irons.
“I’m just happy that we still get to play football, even though there’s no school going. If there was no football going, I don’t know what I’d do. I’m just excited to be out there.”
The Hawks led 26-6 at the half, and drained any suspense from the proceedings on interceptions by Dion Pellerin and Keagan MacGillivray after the break. Pellerin returned his pick 40 yards to the end zone, while MacGillivray’s paved the way for Nelson Lokombo’s short TD run.
Bateman’s points came on a 60-yard kick return by Mckenzie Johnson, and a 10-yard run late in the fourth quarter by Grade 10 QB Keegan Vicklund.
“Those guys across the way, they’re a polished team,” T-Wolves coach Village said of the Hawks. “They work on the little things . . . they’ll punish you on your mistakes.
“But I’ll tell you what – give us a couple weeks and we’ll sharpen where we made mistakes, and I think we’ll be OK down the road.”
Village noted that it’s “odd being here without any school.”
“Obviously we had a good fan base, but I think it more affects the kids,” he said. “When you’re in class, you’re a little bit more focused and attentive. Tonight, I found that us as a team, we just weren’t mentally there. You’re not used to getting up in the morning and going to school, and your brain’s on all day.
“I think that was our biggest thing.”