Sports

Ballenas Whalers San Antonio bound

Alamodome-bound Varsity Football Whalers, QB Liam O’Brien, left, loading up with a snowball, and lineman Brock Mould are part of a Team B.C. headed for Texas for a big tournament. - James Clarke photo
Alamodome-bound Varsity Football Whalers, QB Liam O’Brien, left, loading up with a snowball, and lineman Brock Mould are part of a Team B.C. headed for Texas for a big tournament.
— image credit: James Clarke photo

Pass the gravy, actually make that the gridiron please — seems a couple of Whalers will be spending part of their Christmas break down in Texas where they’ve been selected to play for Team B.C.

Football B.C. recently announced its 36-player roster for the provincial U18 tackle football team that will represent British Columbia at the FBU International Games as part of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl Week to be held in San Antonio, Texas, Dec. 30 - Jan. 6, and two Parksville players will be making the trip.

Selected to the high performance team are the Whalers’ AA MVP quarterback Liam O’Brien, 17, and Gr. 11 standout Brock Mould, 16, who is being platooned primarily at O-line but will also see duty on defence.

“There are only 36 kids on the team, so to have two from Ballenas is awesome,” Whalers’ skipper Jeremy Conn said of the news. “To have a quarterback on that team and a Grade 11 on the team, that’s a pretty big accomplishment for our school.”

Team B.C. is led by head coach and offensive line coach Tom Kudaba, former CFLer now a teacher and head coach of Coquitlam’s Terry Fox Ravens.

Contacted last week, Kudaba said he was looking forward to his first time taking a team to this tournament, a team he says is stacked with talent but faces the challenge of gelling as a unit in a very short amount of time.

“We’re only playing two games down there with possibly a scrimmage against a Mexican group. I would assume all kids on this 36 man roster are going to see playing time.”

At this point he says O’Brien is penciled in as the number two QB, “but that could change once we get down there. We’ve got three days of practice before our first game, so it will really come down to who’s picking up the system quicker. It’s a real challenge for these kids to pick up what we’re doing in such a short amount of time. We’ll keep it simple for them as much as we can, but you can’t put them in a offence and expect them to master it in three days that’s for sure.”

Also in the mix representing the red and white will be a team from Quebec and a team from Ontario.

Team B.C. leaves for the Longhorn State Dec. 29 and opens their FBU International Games schedule Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013 against Team Europe at Heroe’s Stadium. Their second and final game will be against Team USA two days later (Saturday) at the Alamodome.

As fired up as they are to be suiting up south of the border, the Texas tourney was their second choice.

For those following along at home Team BC has placed 3rd the last two years at the Canada Cup, but due to some red tape somehow found themselves on the outside looking in when they were not allowed to enter this year, and as such the coaching staff needed to find something to replace it.

For the players (Gr. 11s and 12s), the process started in the spring of last year with an identification camp at SFU, “but prior to that me and (offensive coordinator) Jay Prepchuk went around the province to formulate an invite list,” said Kudaba.

Some 200 players turned out at that initial camp, and from there 110 were invited back to SFU last May for an intense three day camp from the team that was then believed to be bound for Canada Cup, was selected.

“We’re part of a tournament that is part of that week showcase for different ages — it’s big down there,” he said, and answered with a quick “for sure,” when asked if his team is looking forward to the challenge.

“We think we have the majority of the best players in the province for this age level — and we’re dealing with both AA and AAA here and community football as well all represented. It’s a good group, and they’ve got their work cut out for them.”

They leave Dec. 30 and return home Jan. 5 and will bring in the New Year there.

“We had our last selection tryout last week at the BC Lions facility in Surrey and that day we had invited about 50 kids,” Kudaba explained, adding “We can only keep 36, so it was a tough call to make for almost 16 kids.

“It’s part of the job, and for the players it’s part of the growing up experience, but it doesn’t make it easier,” he said.

As for the two Whalers, “they’ve definitely earned their spots on the roster.

“I have an affinity for Brock,” Kudaba said, explaining how he was never the biggest guy on the line back in his playing days either,  “but he’s very strong for his age group and size, and he has a good understanding of the game.”

O’Brien he said, “is a big strong quarterback athlete who’s got a strong arm, shows a lot of poise, and runs well as well. I’m not going to call him the next RG3 (as in Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins QB), but certainly for the high school level he’s a guy who’s got some great athletic skill and he’s able to throw the ball quite well with accuracy.”

O’Brien has been attending Prepchuk’s quarterback camps for a number of years.

At the end of the day the road to the Texas roster both local players agreed “was intense,” and both make no bones they’re looking forward to lining up against the Americans in their final game.

“It was a couple of weeks ago on the Monday — Me and Liam were waiting in the library, we knew they were going to announce it on the web at 11 o’clock and right at 11 we went to the site and we were looking for our names, just praying they’d be there,” Brock said with a big smile when asked how they got word they’d made the team Texas bound.

“It’s going to be a great experience,” said the lineman. “Only 36 players in all of BC are going down there, and I’m one of them, and especially to be picked with my quarterback ...”

“I’m pretty excited,” Liam countered, nodding his head in confirmation and smiling from ear to ear “probably more excited then I’ve ever been about anything in my entire life; I’m really looking forward to it.”

The scheduling works in the Canadian’s favour as Team BC will have an expected pre-tourney exhibition game against Mexico and their opener against Team Europe to get their feet under them before taking on the Americans in their final game at the storied old Alamo Dome in front of what will no doubt be  large loud crowd of high school football fans.

Keep in mind the BC High School Football is four down American rules football.

“Its gong to be amazing,” said Brock.

“It’s going to be a great experience for the players, and I’ll tell ‘ya what, I think those Americans are in for a surprise...” Liam’s dad Barney offered up off the cuff in a chance meeting outside a store.

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