Bears' grad class stands out on gridiron
A little like the odds of hitting the jackpot twice, assistant coach Rick Nelson doesn't expect to see the likes of the Mt. Boucherie Bears' 2014 graduating class come around again.
Seven of the eight senior players from last year's Boucherie football squad are taking their careers beyond the high school level this coming season, to play with either university or junior programs.
Ben Minaker and Hayden Keller will soon be joining coach Jacques Chapdelaine's NCAA Div. 2 program at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, while five other ex-Bears are rookies with the B.C. Football Conference's Okanagan Sun—Josiah Joseph, Spencer Humes, Cole Bertram, Keagan Hughes and Tyler Geisler.
Six of the seven have been playing together since their earliest days in minor football, while Minaker made the switch from hockey to football and became part of the Bears' program in high school.
"It's quite amazing to see so many guys from one class doing so well," said Nelson, the Bears' offensive coordinator. "They were a very committed group of players for many years, such students of the game and eager to learn. They never stopped soaking stuff up and just kept getting better and better. I don't think we'll ever see a group like this again…we'd like to, but it's hard to imagine this coming along again."
In addition to their work ethic and natural ability, Nelson said all seven have benefitted from their association with the Mt. Boucherie program and, in particular, Bears' head coach Mike Godwin.
"Mike is such a great teacher and a great coach," said Nelson. "He's done great things for this program over the years and it shows in the quality of players we turn out. Whether it's during the football season or the camps we went to in Oregon, the kids learned a lot over the years, and it really shows."
Just as important, Nelson said the seven are also quality people—another key ingredient in success, be it on or off the football field.
"They're going to be successful no matter what they do in life," said Nelson. "They're smart, passionate and just good young men.
"As far as football goes, I think some of these kids have the potential to play pro. If they continue this work ethic they have, anything is possible. It will be fun to watch all of them over the next few years."
All seven played key roles for the Bears throughout their high school days, including sharing in the team's first ever unbeaten regular season (6-0) in the Okanagan AAA conference in 2012.
At Boucherie, Joseph starred at quarterback, Minaker played at pivot and safety, Keller at wide receiver, Bertram toiled on both the offensive and defensive lines, Hughes at running back and linebacker, Humes played wide receiver and DB, while Geisler was a running back and cornerback.
Joseph, 18, who is expected to push for considerable playing time as a rookie with the Sun, is thrilled to see his friends and teammates moving on in the sport.
"We're such a tight-knit group of friends, we all came up together and all shared a passion to do well at the game," said the 6-foot-3, 198-pound QB. "It's nice that we all wanted to keep playing and getting better, and it's good to see this group moving on. I wish all of the guys the best."
Boucherie assistant coach Rick Keller, who helped Mike Godwin get the Bears off and running in 2003, said the combination of the players' self-motivation and Godwin's commitment to the program is paying dividends.
"The (players) are all cut from the same cloth, they have the same drive, and they're smart hardworking kids," Keller said. "You combine that with the time Mike puts in, the system he has in place, the weight program…what he's instituted here is just outstanding."
Keller said the eighth member of the football grad class, Cole Geisler, could have easily made it unanimous but chose not to pursue the game beyond high school.
Hayden Keller, Ben Minaker and the SFU Clan will open the NCAA Div. 2 season Sept. 6 in Burnaby against Menlo College.
Joseph, Geisler, Humes, Hughes and Bertram will kick off the 2014 BCFC season with the Okanagan Sun July 26 in Chilliwack.