All three Lord Tweedsmuir football teams lost in the playoffs in the same week, but despite the early round exits, the coaches are happy with the way the season went.
Frank Paulicelli, head coach for the Grade 8 team, said even though his squad lost their semifinal match to Vancouver College, he felt the season was successful.
“We have lots to build on,” said Paulicelli. “It’s been great for the kids and the program. There hasn’t been a (Grade 8) program at the school for several years now. Last year was the first year they brought it back.”
Paulicelli said he had about 30 kids out this year. His goal was to teach the kids the game so they hopefully play again next year at the junior varsity level.
“We had a lot of first-time players,” he noted. “Overall, it was great bunch of young fellows who showed dedication to learn the game.”
He said the season was tough for the kids in some respects due to injuries and illness, but he feels the coaching staff gave the players a good football foundation, imparting both knowledge of the game and also passing on a love for football.
The Grade 8s lost their playoff game to VC 36-6, after Lord Tweedsmuir finished third overall in the six-team Grade 8 league.
“When you look at the teams—and I give credit to Heritage Park in Mission, they’re a middle school—the rest are all Catholic schools with very well-established programs. I think it’s unfortunate that other schools don’t have Grade 8 programs.”
Prab Bal, head coach for Vancouver College’s Grade 8 team, said the game against Tweedsmuir was a tough one despite the scoreline and he was happy with his team’s performance.
“We played well,” said Bal, who runs Cloverdale’s Lotus Terminals. “We’ve really gelled as a team over the year and we don’t rely on one or two people, it’s the full team.”
Bal said with a large pool to draw players from, they had to spend some time planning out how the season would go, as players would each get limited game time early.
“We did have a plan with the team and that was to gradually build up the players,” explained Bal. “We have 60 kids in the program, so we wanted to give everyone playing time and let the stars shine.”
Bal’s squad will play in the Grade 8 provincial final at B.C. Place Nov. 26.
Nick Kawaza who coaches the Tweedsmuir senior team, and oversees the junior varsity team with JV head coach Jay Roberts, agreed that despite the first round exit for all three teams, the football program at Tweedsmuir has “a lot of positives” to build on.
“We run the JVs and the senior varsity together,” explained Kawaza. “We were very young and inexperienced this year and it was a challenge trying to reestablish (football) after the two COVID years.”
Kawaza said he was happy with the program at all levels as the coaching staff treated it as a “start-up” year.
“The commitment level was great,” he said. “I hope the kids get in the gym in the offseason and get bigger, faster, stronger. We only had four Grade 12s on the senior team, so we have a lot of kids coming back.”
Kawaza said the players deserve credit for what they accomplished. Fighting through this season, they now understand what it takes to be successful at football and what it takes to win games.
“It’s important they take these lessons and improve on what they’ve built this year,” he added. “They’ve got the physical skill level, the mental ability, and the commitment level, they now have to improve as athletes and get better.”
He said rebuilding the program, from Grade 8 through to the two varsity teams, has given the school a “good base” to achieve football success in the 2023 season.
“They are a pretty good group of young men and we’re happy with the program and the progress the kids have shown.”
After the Grade 8s lost in their first-round playoff game earlier in November, Tweedy’s junior varsity team lost to Carson Graham 6-0, and the senior team lost to South Delta 14-13.