Brandon’s Connor Ketchen couldn’t have asked for a better experience during his first season with the University of Regina Rams football team.
The 2010 Neelin High School graduate has joined a winning team that will host its first playoff game since 2007. He’s also played in every game for the Rams this season, although mostly on special teams and in specialty defensive packages at linebacker.
Friday was the icing on the cake for Ketchen as he was Regina’s starting middle linebacker for its Canada West conference regular-season finale against Alberta Golden Bears.
“During the recruitment process, Frank (McCrystal, the Rams head coach) told me I’d be on the 40-man travelling roster and I’d start on every special team,” said Ketchen, who also considered joining the Calgary Dinos, but chose Regina to be closer to home. “I’ve contributed as well as I could, but I never thought I’d be a starter. Obviously, that’s what I shot for and I trained for nothing less and I’m just excited that it’s happening now.”
A former member of Manitoba’s under-18 football team and the Westman Wolverines of the Manitoba Major Football League, Ketchen was having a solid season with the Rams prior to Friday’s game, which was still in progress at press time last night. In spot duty through the team’s first seven games, he recorded six tackles, one pass knockdown and one interception, which came against the Manitoba Bisons — featuring his former high-school teammate Nevin Gamblin.
Ketchen’s move to the starting lineup, however, was a matter of circumstance. Regina’s regular starting middle linebacker, Alex Meldrum, injured a medial collateral knee ligament and Ketchen beat out another backup player to take the field on Friday.
While the 6-foot-2, 235-pound rookie doesn’t know how long he’ll remain on the Rams’ top defensive unit, he wants to make as much of an impact on the field as he can.
“We have a really good defence and there haven’t been a lot of faults in it,” said Ketchen, whose team gives up an average of 22.9 points per game. “I hope to come in here and contribute and help to get to a level that we haven’t been to yet. I just want to keep the defence rolling.”
Ketchen feels a bit of pressure to keep the team’s level of defensive play at a high level because of the energy that’s in the Rams locker room.
None of the players on the team have experienced a home playoff game in their careers in Regina, and they want to win the Canada West semifinal next weekend, when the Rams will host either the Saskatchewan Huskies or the Bisons. Ketchen thinks Regina has a legitimate chance to win its first Hardy Cup since 2000 and reach its second-ever Vanier Cup. Whether the team gets that far or not, Ketchen said it’s been a fantastic first campaign in Regina, and something he can build on for the rest of his university career.
“Obviously winning the Hardy, winning the Vanier would be amazing, but … we’ve beaten every team in Canada West,” the kinesiology student said. “We’ve done what we’ve had to do and a home playoff game is a great way to sum up the season so far.”
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 27, 2012