Enthusiasm and athleticism trumped inexperience in the Foothills Falcons home opener.
Foothills jumped out to a three touchdown lead in the first half and held off the Strathmore Spartans 22-8 in the high school football curtain raiser at Falcons field on Friday night.
“We came out of the gates pretty good,” said Falcons head coach Nathan St. Dennis. “Even with kids that are a little inexperienced, they responded well initially which is sometimes tough because this week we didn’t have any opportunity to prepare like we normally do.
“This was Strathmore’s first game so we didn’t have film on them so we were kind of guessing and it was nice to see them respond that way.”
Foothills was in the end zone within minutes of kick-off, mixing its ground game with the likes of Logan Heffron and Eton Nelson and its passing attack led by Grade 11 quarterback Tyson Camel to great effect.
Camel, an outfielder with the Dawgs Academy, showcased his strong right arm in feathering a pass to Grade 12 receiver Josh Groome for a 21-yard touchdown to open the scoring.
“It was a (bootleg) so I could have either ran it or thrown it and I just saw him,” Camel said. “He was wide open and I just thought all right.”
The Falcons were back in the end-zone before the end of the first quarter.
After the stout Foothills defensive unit produced a turnover on a fumble recovery by Daniel Craven, the Falcons young signal caller called his own number on another bootleg play and scrambled into the end-zone for a 12-yard touchdown.
“It’s been fun, you’ve got to learn a lot of new stuff and it’s hard memorizing everything,” said Camel of learning the position. “I only said I was joining the team a couple days before practice (started) and they were asking me what position I wanted to play.
“They asked if I wanted to try QB and I said sure because they knew I played baseball my previous season.”
The Falcons defence continued to make plays leading directly to points on the board.
Grade 10 defensive back Trey Peacock, who was flying all over the field swatting away passes, picked off a pass at the Falcons 35-yard line with 1:28 left in the half.
Camel then connected with Sam Simard, a defensive end and receiver for the Falcons, and the Grade 12 turned the 25-yard reception into a 75-yard touchdown.
“(Tyson) did great for a kid that’s stepped in there new to the game,” St. Dennis said. “I know he had some experience when he was younger in minor football, but having that break and coming on in a big situation I think he did a great job.
“He’s a great athlete and it just transfers over and that’s what we’re all about, kids that are athletes, doesn’t matter what their background is.”
The Spartans got on the board in the final minute of the half on a 45-yard touchdown reception with just 14 seconds on the clock.
Foothills kept the Spartans from adding any points on offence, Strathmore added its other two on a safety when the Falcons elected to kneel in the end-zone rather than punt out of bad field position, with forceful and opportunistic defensive efforts in the second-half.
Jamison Strilchuk’s interception deep in the Falcons zone early in the fourth quarter punctuated a terrific effort from the Falcons defensive backs.
“We dropped probably three more (interceptions) we just had those butterfingers,” the coach added. “Again, we’ve got young guys in there, first high school football games, in that DB corps I think almost all of them are (new). So give them those opportunities learn from those mistakes, secure that ball.
“But the turnovers are huge and our DBs did a great job.”
Foothills improved to 1-1 with the victory.
Next week, there’s a slight change to the Falcons schedule.
The Sept. 13 match versus Hunting Hills is now a road game in Red Deer as one of the Falcons field goal posts is under repair. After that Foothills has its annual Blackout Game on Sept. 20 at home versus the Holy Trinity Academy Knights.
“We’ve got to be better, we’re still not happy,” St. Dennis said. “We were making mistakes we shouldn’t be making and in order for us to achieve what we want to achieve that has to be the attitude.
“With those kids it’s all about getting reps and we’re expecting to progress from where we are.”