With hands like Jerry Rice, a lot of eyes will be on Caden Danbrook.
The Vernon Secondary Panthers wide receiver is back for a second stint with Team B.C. at the Football Canada Cup U18 tournament starting Sunday in Kingston, Ont. Danbrook helped B.C. go 2-1 at last year’s tournament in Calgary – playing as a U16 – to finish fifth.
This year, at the eight-province event, Danbrook is joined by three teammates who will also get long looks from the plethora of Canadian university scouts expected to be on hand.
Danbrook, offensive lineman Brady Szeman, defensive lineman Liam Reid and defensive back Zack Smith all made the final cut for the provincial team, coached by former B.C. Lions running back Cory Philpot.
The quartet, who are entering their Grade 12 years, helped the Panthers become the first senior football team from Vernon to win a provincial championship, guiding the Cats to an undefeated B.C. AA season in 2018.
“Caden is a kid with great speed and can catch the ball, that’s what makes him special on this team,” said Philpot, who coaches at Delta’s Seaquam Secondary where his quarterback, Jay Mather, will start for Team B.C. and look to the likes of Danbrook to help the province win the tournament for the first time ever (B.C. has never reached a final since 2010).
Philpot has been impressed by all four Panthers who will wear their VSS varsity numbers with Team B.C.
“Brady will be a big part in keeping our QB safe as he helps on the O-line. Liam plays a big part of the D-line and we hope to see him make big plays for us. Zack showed us he could make plays at DB and had what it takes to make the team.
“Overall these young men work hard every day and show us that they were right for the team. We are happy to have them as we try to bring home the gold.”
The four Panthers earned their spot after travelling to UBC in Vancouver for tryouts over a couple of weekends.
“We are all excited to show our talents and to represent Vernon football and the province,” said Danbrook, a summer chef at a Vernon restaurant. “It’s pretty awesome that we can play together and that we get to meet a lot of new kids.”
B.C. will host Ontario in its opening game Sunday at 3 p.m. Pacific time. The winner advances to the semifinal and a guaranteed top-four finish against the winner of Saskatchewan-Nova Scotia. The loser drops to the consolation side and can finish no higher than fifth.
Saskatchewan is the defending tournament champion, having beaten host Alberta 31-21 in last year’s final.
“I think if we can get by Ontario, which is a tough opening game, we will have a great chance to win it all,” said Danbrook, who enters this year’s Football Canada Cup with more determination. “I have a lot more confidence this year. I feel more part of the team.”
The Football Canada Cup is the premier pre-university football tournament in Canada which annually showcases the top under-18 football players from across the country.
All games in the tournament will be streamed live at http://footballcanada.com/2019-football-canada-cup/