W.J. Mouat Hawks look to turn tragedy into inspiration
By Cam Tucker, Abbotsford Times August 22, 2011
The W.J. Mouat Hawks Triple-A varsity football team is looking to turn the tragic events of this summer into a source of motivation in its chase for a provincial championship.
The Hawks lost two members of their football family this summer – star receiver and graduate Desmond Bassi was killed in a hit and run incident on July 23 after returning home from a party in the early morning, while longtime team volunteer John “Opa” Smeysters died of cancer on June 10 at the age of 74.
The Hawks hit the gridiron on Monday for the beginning of training camp, looking to their late friends for inspiration.
“It was really tough, just a couple of weeks of hell,” said Grade 12 linebacker Jake Heathcote.
“You look at it and you decide you want to live for them. You don’t want to dishonour them by mourning too much. You want to do your best and represent them and what they loved, which is football.”
Hawks head coach Denis Kelly added, “That’s been hard. We’ve got two guys there that made an excellent contribution to our program.
“It’s hard, but I think it will give the guys added motivation to make them proud.”
With the added incentive of the unfortunate circumstances this off-season, the Hawks now look to make it back to the B.C. championship game for the third time in four years.
Despite heavy expectations and being the titleholders of the top high school team in Canada for a good portion of last season, the Hawks fell to the Vancouver College Fighting Irish in the Subway Bowl Triple-A semifinals by a score of 27-3 last November.
Last year’s loss fell on the heels of back-to-back shortfalls in the championship game.
Coming up just shy of their ultimate goal the last three years has been a disappointment the 2011 team is eager to account for.
“If you don’t win the championship, it just makes you want it that much more,” said Heathcote, who finished second in the entire league with 12 sacks overall last season.
“We’ve been really close the last couple of years, and I think this year we have a really good chance.”
Coach Kelly advertised on Monday that this Hawks team could rival any of the past three – all of which figured into the talk of championship contenders.
“We’ve got all the potential,” said Kelly. “I think we’ve got all the credentials of competing at the highest level and I think we’re going to give it a real good shot.”
The strength of this team seems to be on defence, but Kelly noted that after a fine spring camp from Grade 12 quarterback Daniel Markin and Grade 11 back-up Mario Narte, the offence will find its stride as the season progresses.
“They both did well, they showed a lot of potential in what they can do this season,” said the coach.
The Hawks face a stern test to open their exhibition season, as they travel to Victoria for a date with the Mount Douglas Rams on Friday, Sept. 9.