Terrek Bryant and Dustin Rodriguez are on a bus today with their Team BC teammates, bound for Alberta and the 2011 Football Canada Cup.
This is the first time in the history of the Ballenas Secondary School football program a player or players have been selected to compete in the Canada Cup.
The road there wasn’t easy, and the toughest test is yet to come, but the two local standouts are loving every minute of it.
“Oh yeah, for sure,” Dustin confirmed with a smile and a nod of his head Sunday when The News caught up with them at BSS field at the weekly flag football pickup game.
Terrek, 6’6”, 245 pounds, plays both offensive and defensive line and will be platooned on O for the Canada Cup.
At 5’8”, 165 pounds, Dustin is a standout at both receiver and safety, and is at his most dangerous pulling in passes and creating extra YAC (yards after catch).
Dustin, who led the JVs both years in receiving and led the province in touchdown receptions (over 20) in his Grade 10 year, was injured most of last season, which has made him all the hungrier.
They were two of four Whalers invited to the Team BC main camp, played out at Simon Fraser University the May long weekend. Terrek and Dustin, both 17, were part of a crop of 126 invitees vying for a spot on the 40 man roster.
Condtitions were windy and rainy for the most part, and the players were pushed hard.
“It was intense,” confirmed Terrek, who was one of eight linemen selected out of a pool of 23.
“It was fun — the competition was really hard, really completive,” said Dustin, one of seven receivers selected out of 23.
Both players came up through Ballenas’ junior varsity team and both agree their coaches have prepared them well for this point in their playing careers.
Saskatchewan heads into the tournament as defending champions, with Alberta, Manitoba, two teams from Ontario, Nova Scotia and Quebec all vying for the Cup as well.
The locals were part of a group of 10 Island players selected to Team BC — there were five from Victoria that also made the grade and three from Nanaimo.
To be invited to the main camp the Whalers and their counterparts had to pass a some testing last January down in Victoria; run testing, weight training testing and skill testing.
The main selection camp, said Dustin “was totally different from anything we’ve ever experienced before … there was a lot of contact … more than usual, and different types of practices.”
No walk in the park, the camp was full-on football for three days, with two-a-days, every day.
There was a three hour morning practice starting at 9 a.m. then an evening practice from 6 – 9 p.m.
“They pushed us to see what we were capable of,” Terrek surmised.
“We learned a lot,” added Dustin.
A showcase for the top Under 18 players in the country, the Canada Cup surfaced in 2000. B.C. and Nova Scotia both sent teams in the tourney’s first two years, were absent for the next seven, and will be back for its second straight showing this year.
“This is a big deal for the players, their parents, and the program,” said varsity Whalers co-head coach Jeremy Conn.
Beyond the challenge of being selected, the fact that every player on the team had to come up with $1,900 each to be part of the experience, merely punctuates their commitment to the game.
“Definitley,” Dustin answers quickly when asked if it’s worth it.
“There’s going to be lot of scouts there … it’s going to be fun,” said Terrek.
Both boys are hoping to parlay their football skills into a post secondary education.
Contacted in North Vancouver, Team BC offensive co-ordinator Jay Prepchuk had good things to say about the local players.
“For a kid size and at that age he can run — Terrek’s very athletic,” said Prepchuk, longtime head coach of the perennial AA powerhouse Handsworth Royals, explaining, “our offense requires our lineman to do a lot of pulling, a lot of running … the one thing I noticed about Terrek is that he’s really, really improved.”
Dustin, he said, he met at his receivers camp back in May. The camp, led by Geroy Simon, BC Lion all-star receiver and the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player in 2006, was held mid-evenings mid-week “and Dustin and his dad came over from Parksville for both of them, so it just shows you how keen he is. Dustin is a very fast, very quick receiver that runs excellent pass routes, and the other good thing about Dustin is that he can also kick as well,” said Prepchuk. “The other thing about both those boys is that they’re extremely coachable, and really a delight to work with.”
The main camp, said Prepchuk, saw the players thrown into the fire and asked to learn a whole new offence alongside guys they’ve never played with before, “so those two guys did a great job — both those boys showed their football knowledge by picking it up and really excelling at camp.
“They’re a couple hard working boys that take their football seriously — they take a lot of pride in their game and they really showed their competitiveness by how hard they worked during training camp,” said Prepchuk, adding, “they’re both a really a good reflection of the Whaler football program. I know (head coaches) Jeremy Conn and Sean Hines run an excellent program, and these boys represent that … you folks in Parksville should be very proud of those two young men.”
The team meets early Tuesday morning (today) then boards a coach and the long road trip to the University of Calgary where they will practice for three days before moving to the University of Lethbridge, site of the 2011 Football Canada Cup.
Each team plays three games. Team BC’s opener is July 11 against Manitoba. They return to the field July 13 and 16.