Some may say high school football is bigger and better in America – but those people have never met the 2014 Team Alberta.
The best of the best in U-16 football from across the province were carefully selected after the Alberta Summer Games with three local players – Eric Thomson, Reiss Flunder and Payton Lagrange being selected from the Zone 4 (Central Alberta) summer games team.
This elite team of youth players recently travelled to Dallas, Texas where they took on the USA National Team at the famed AT&T Stadium – home of the Dallas Cowboys.
The Canadian and American teams showcased more than 100 of North America’s top high school freshman as part of the ‘International Bowl 2015’.
The three Red Deer boys say they could never have anticipated the outcome of the game and were nervous walking onto the field, however they were beyond thrilled when they brought home a 42-0 shutout against the U.S. U-16 National Team.
Thomson, who plays in his regular high school season as wide receiver for Hunting Hills High School stated he believed the win was due largely in part to preparation, mixed with the great chemistry of their team.
“Going into the game we thought we had a chance at winning but we thought it was going to be really tough,” said Thomson. “Going onto the field it looked like they had some really good players, but we shut those players down effectively.”
Having only had a handful of practices together as a team before heading to Dallas, the boys explained it was a rigorous week leading up to the game as they practiced twice daily before they finally suited up with the maple leaf on their backs to represent their country.
“None of us expected the outcome of that game,” said Lagrange, who plays wide receiver for Notre Dame High School. “We were all just excited and proud to be able to represent Alberta and I was proud to be able to represent my high school on Team Alberta as well.”
The three agreed that while they wished their team had thrown the ball a bit more, they were thrilled with the outcome of the game and happy with their individual performances as well.
“I was very happy with how I played – I led the team in tackles and played the majority of the game,” said Flunder, who plays as a linebacker for Notre Dame. “What I took away most from the whole Team Alberta experience is what the talent is like for our age group in North America and the skills I need to have to take my game to the next level.”
The trio agreed they are excited to return to their respective high school playing fields and use the skills they’ve learned from playing on Team Alberta.
“Our coaches were incredible – they knew a ton about the game and had a lot of experience so even just over that short time with them we all got to learn so much,” explained Thomson on their new skill sets.
Currently the teens are preoccupied with off season training, but up next for the talented 15-year-olds will be the Team Alberta Summer Games tryouts in April, where they will hope to make it to Montreal for the 2015 Canada Cup where they will take on the other provinces.
“Making the U-18 team means we would be able to play in the Canada Cup and have the chance to represent Alberta on a national scale,” said Flunder. “Which would be nice since we’ve already had the chance to represent Alberta in the U.S.”
Following the tryouts they will begin spring training camps for their respective schools to prepare for their Grade 11 season with the Cougars and the Lightning.