- BC Games
Whalers play with heavy hearts
It was with heavy hearts that players and coaches of the Ballenas Whalers football program took to the field last week for their first practices in full gear.
In their first main practice of the season last Monday, some 23 JV’s and 20 senior players took to the field behind BSS in the wake of the tragic death of Lukas Whibley who played two seasons for the blue and white.
“It was pretty heavy. It’s hard to believe — just a tragedy,” BSS teacher and Whalers’ returning head coach Jeremy Conn said when asked about the accident and those first days back out on the field. “Especially for the kids that played with him. There were a lot of questions, a lot of emotions ...what we did was say ‘what would Lukas want?’, and he’d want us to keep going and get ready to play.”
Whibley, who died in a swimming accident at Little Qualicum Falls Aug. 9, played for the JV Whalers for one season and on the senior team for one season. He played offensive and defensive line.
A good many of this year’s varsity players were teammates of Whibley’s.
“We’re just trying to be available and talk to the kids and let the kids know that all the emotions they’re going through are perfectly natural, and just that as a team and a family we really need to support each other.
“Great teammate. Great guy,” Conn said of Whibley. “A wonderful sense of humour. He’s the kind of guy you love to coach, and he’s duly missed ...the entire program (both teams) are dedicating the season to him.”
To that end the Whalers are looking into either wearing a patch on their jerseys or a sticker on the helmet in his memory.
Looking ahead, this is Conn’s sixth season with the program and second season as sole head coach of the Varsity Whalers, a role he takes on this year with the JV’s as well.
The team hit the field in preparation for their upcoming varsity preseason opener which Conn says will mark the teams earliest ever start to a campaign.
In BC High School Sports, no schools are allowed to start practicing in full gear until Aug. 19.
Including exhibition games the Sr.’s play 10 games and the JV’s nine. The Varsity Whalers finished 8-4 overall last season and were knocked out in the semi-finals in a heartbreaker against the Mission Roadrunners.
“We’re averaging about 20 players (per team), which for this time of year is pretty good,” said Conn, adding they still have a few guys that will join them once school starts back up, and that the team is always looking for new players.
Anyone interested in suiting up for either of the Whalers’ teams, Conn says “we’d be more than happy to have them come out.”
Former quarterback and UBC Sports Hall of Famer Dan Smith is back for another campaign as the offensive coordinator for the Varsity team. Trevor Shields is working with the running backs and linebackers for both teams. Whaler alumni Jordan Hunt is come back home to help coach the offensive and defensive lines, and long-serving team trainer Rick Wilson is back on the sidelines.
In the meantime, Conn said everyone on the team “is looking forward to getting out there on Friday and seeing what they can do in a game situation, what they can do when the heat’s on.”
The Varsity Whalers take to the field this Friday (Aug. 30) for their pre-season home opener against the Spectrum Thunder from Victoria. Kickoff is 3:30 p.m.