The players on Team Westman have spent the last four months trying to get to know each other and become a solid football unit in preparation for the under-16 Red River Cup.
They conclude their preparation with their final practice today and will try to show just how far they’ve come a week from now when they open the competition against Winnipeg East.
“We’re excited,” said head coach Kevin Grindey. “A lot of these kids haven’t had the opportunity to play 12-man football before and what’s really nice is we’re coming together as a team.
“The athletes in our program are really starting to believe in each other and stick up for one another and like one another. If anything, we’re really going to be a team. We’re going to look like a team and that’s always been a goal of mine since I started the program.”
The Red River Cup is being held in Winnipeg this year and also features Team Westman, Team Winnipeg East, Team Winnipeg West and Team Regina, Sask.
Grindey has been impressed with how quickly his squad has come together and how fast the 33 players have picked up new systems and techniques the coaching staff has thrown at them.
Westman’s head coach is also happy with the play of his quarterback. Jace Mills, a 15-year-old Brandonite who will attend Vincent Massey in the fall, is the only quarterback on the team’s depth chart and he has adjusted to playing with new players all around him.
“He has very, very good presence in the pocket,” Grindey said. “I’m very impressed with his calmness and his ability to make good reads and his athleticism. Plus he’s turning into a leader. We’re really been happy with the way he’s developed over the last few months … When you’re coming here with a bunch of kids you don’t know and a system you don’t know, he’s handling himself very well. I’m proud of him.”
While Grindey wants his players to focus on playing the best they can during their four games at the week-long event, Mills has bigger goals. The 5-foot-9, 170 pound first-year member of Team Westman wants to see the squad improve on its 0-3-1 record posted last year.
“We hope we get two wins and offensively I’m going for at least five touchdowns and just a good team effort from everyone,” he said.
“(To do that), we just have to work hard. The Winnipeg teams have so many kids to choose from. Their teams are going to go in there more advanced than we are, but if we work hard I know we can take them.”
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition June 30, 2012