Four members of the Crocus Plainsmen are working to join the defending national junior football champion Regina Thunder for next season.
Running back Victor St. Pierre, fullback Calvin Van Santen, offensive lineman Brayden Moroz and linebacker Steven Siebrecht have all survived the first few tryouts with the Thunder, who beat the Vancouver Island Raiders 55-26 in the Canadian Bowl in Regina in November. All four have made the first cuts and been invited back later for more camps.
The four Brandonites decided to go the junior football route over the university route for different reasons — including costs and level of play — and chose the Thunder over the Winnipeg Rifles. They all feel comfortable with Regina so far.
"So far so good," said Moroz. "I’ve been performing pretty well and I’ve gotten nothing but positive feedback from the coaches."
"It feels really good knowing you could play for the best team at the junior level," added Siebrecht.
All four Plainsmen come with solid resumés from their high school days. St. Pierre led the Winnipeg High School Football League’s Kas Vidruk (AA) Division last season with 1,320 yards rushing — averaging 10.6 yards per carry — and 23 touchdowns — 20 of which came on the ground.
The 5-foot-9, 160-pound tailback was also a threat on kickoff and punt returns and was on Manitoba’s under-18 team that competed at the Football Canada Cup last summer, along with the 6-foot-2, 275-pound Moroz.
Meanwhile, the 5-foot-9, 205-pound Van Santen was often a solid lead blocker for St. Pierre out of the backfield and posted a solid 264 yards on the ground during last season, averaging 5.9 yards per carry.
Siebrecht, who’s 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds, topped the division in tackles for the second straight season, racking up 60 in 2013 after making 92 tackles in his Grade 11 season in 2012.
The four were a big reason the Plainsmen reached the playoffs with a 4-4 record, before they fell 41-28 to the Sturgeon Heights Huskies in the quarter-finals. Moroz hopes they can play roles with the Thunder next season, which will allow them to continue to support each other as teammates once again.
"It’s been a pretty good experience, rather than the U18 when it was just me and Victor," Moroz said.
"It’s been good having more guys and having more to talk about than get feedback from just one guy or a couple players you don’t really know. You have some guys who watch you and tell you what you’re doing well and what you’re doing bad."
The Brandonites aren’t just helping each other out with their on-the-field production, they’re doing it off the field as well. They’re pooling money together to save on gas for travel and hotels.
The Plainsmen players get a break for a little bit after surviving the open camps on Jan. 20 and Feb. 24, as well as the invite-only camp that was held on Monday. Their next camp will run from May 2-4.
Neither Moroz nor Siebrecht feel out of place with the Thunder and are looking forward to their next opportunity to impress the coaches and try to earn a spot on the team next season.
They admit it’s a bit of a jump in level of play, but Siebrecht feels there’s one important lesson that he’s gained from his first few camps.
"I’ve learned a lot," he said. "It’s definitely a lot faster than high school. It’s just a lot harder to work. You have to have a good work ethic."