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Q&A with Team BC Offensive Coordinator Denis Kelly

Coach Denis Kelly. Photo: Y. Churly

July 7, 9:32 AMFootball BC ExaminerDaniel Fung

With names like Stephen Spagnuolo, Terrell Davis, and Cam Bedore at its disposal, Team BC figures to have one of the most dynamic offensive units among all teams at the upcoming 2010 Football Canada Cup. The man tasked with making sure the offence is firing on all cylinders when they get to Nova Scotia is Offensive Coordinator Denis Kelly, a coach with a long history of success at the High School level in British Columbia.

This year’s tournament marks the seventh time that Kelly has been involved with Team BC and the Football Canada Cup. Kelly was a part of Team BC’s coaching staff in 1993, 1995 and 1997-2000 and was head coach of the squad that won the tournament in 1999 at BC Place Stadium.

Kelly is currently the head coach of the WJ Mouat Hawks varsity program – a position he has held since 1987 – and has won three provincial championships.

Here are some of Kelly’s thoughts on the upcoming 2010 Football Canada Cup.

On how the coaching staff approached selecting the players on offence…

“We just wanted to be as versatile as possible. We knew that we had some tremendous running backs in Terrell Davis and Stephen Spagnuolo. We wanted to make sure we could also pass the ball because it’s Canadian football with three downs. We managed to get some very good receivers and quarterbacks. We think we have both the running and the throwing game in there and the offensive line seems to come around pretty well. I think we’ve got a pretty high quality offence altogether.

“We’re looking for the highest skill level we could possibly get and I think the ones that we picked work out well for us.”

On how the team has prepared to play under Canadian rules…

“We just tried to point out the rules. The kicking game rules, the five-yards on the punt – that’s the main one. And then basically with the receivers you can just let them go and do whatever they want in terms of motion because there’s unlimited motion. We did give them the freedom to move around and get themselves in the right spot and also hit the line of scrimmage going full speed type of thing.

“Main thing is the rule changes and just running the practices so that you concentrate on those rule changes every day so they get acclimatized to it. There’s still going to be a little bit of confusion. I think they allow some downfield blocking below the waist that we don’t in High School.”

(editor’s note: BC High School Football plays American rules whereas the Football Canada Cup will be contested under Canadian rules)

On the decision to name four quarterbacks to the team…

“The thing is it sets up some good possibilities for different types of option plays that we can put in so I think we’re in good shape because a lot of these quarterbacks can play in different positions as well.

“Cam [Bedore] had a very good year for us last year and Braden [Churly] was the back-up. They can pretty well do everything. They’re good runners, they’re good throwers, and they’ve got a good knowledge of the offence. They’re both good leaders too. I think they’re going to have a good tournament.

“The other fellow from Abbotsford Collegiate, Carson Williams, he’s very smart. He’s got a good arm. He’s got a good feel for the offence, seems to throw the ball on time very well.

“By far the best pure athlete is [Tyler] Fong and he’s going to be able to do a lot of stuff for us in different positions at both at quarterback and running back and some receiver. I think we’ve got some high skill level there.”

On having six players from his High School team, the WJ Mouat Hawks, make Team BC…

“I was quite happy. The thing is all six guys are going to get a good experience out of it. I think that’s the main thing. They’ll get some extra work on their football skills but the other thing too is they get another football experience to add to their repertoire.

“It’s a good opportunity to go for a championship especially with national recognition on the line. You add that to their own team work here at Mouat and our playoff system going for a provincial championship I think it makes for a very good opportunity for the kids to experience football at the highest level. We’re happy that six of our boys will get to experience that this summer.”

On RB Stephen Spagnuolo…

“He’s a big-time player. He’ll step it up. When we played the (exhibition) game against Surrey, we threw the ball but we’re going to be relying on him and [RB Terrell] Davis to carry the load. He’s just got great balance and he’s a tremendous athlete so we’re definitely going to use him.

“The other thing about him is he’s got very good hands. You can throw the ball to him out of the backfield. He’ll be able to run some very good pass routes for us as well. But the main thing is we’re just going to get the ball in his hands and do our best to block for him and let him show his ability.”

On how his experience this year with Team BC differs from his previous experiences with Team BC in the late 90’s…

“I think it’s going to be a tremendous experience. We were in Halifax in ’97 and we didn’t have the talent that we have on this team. We had a few stars like [current CFL player] Paris Jackson and a couple of guys of that nature but there was not the overall quality that we have this year.

“[Back in 1997] we picked the team mainly from Senior Bowl and it was Grade 12’s and some of the Grade 12’s didn’t go and we had a lot of trouble before getting kids to commit to it. Now I think with the mainly Grade 11’s, they look at it as a means of establishing their profile among the college coaches that will be there and as a great opportunity to get their senior year started on the right foot. I think the concept now is much more conducive to having your best athletes there and I think our team that we’re going to field here will be a lot better than the one we fielded in ’97 although I think we still came second or third. It should be a real good experience.”

On comparing this year’s team to the 1999 Team BC that won the tournament played at BC Place Stadium…

“That was a real good team. Of course, you’ve got a tremendous advantage in these tournaments when you’re the home team. You basically just know your way around. I think as the head coach at that time, I think we had an excellent staff.

“This year, it’s the same thing. I’ve got [Team BC head coach] Tom Kudaba who’s an excellent coach. We’ve got great position coaches all over the place. It’s just nice to be working with this caliber of organization and with the caliber of athletes that we have. I’m looking forward to it as not only to compete for the national championship but also just a good opportunity to spend time with these other coaches and just to know them a little better and be a good start to our own season coming up starting in August.”

Football BC will be releasing a series of Q&A’s with various Team BC staff and players exclusively via leading up to start of the 2010 Football Canada Cup which takes place from July 10- 17, 2010 at Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia.

The next Q&A is with Team BC QB Cam Bedore and is scheduled to be released on Thursday, July 8 here on the Football BC Examiner’s page. The full list of interviews to be posted is available on Football BC’s website.

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