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Bonnyville football players represent Alberta on the gridiron this summer

At just 16-years-old, starting quarterback Sara Fagnan helped lead Team Alberta's U18 Women's football team to victory over Team Québec at National Championships on Saturday in Ottawa. The final score was 52-22 for Team Alberta.

BONNYVILLE – This summer, six Bonnyville football players have been busy representing the province on the gridiron at both regional and national events. 

A handful of local athletes tried out along with hundreds of other football players from across the province all vying for an opportunity to represent Football Alberta. A record-breaking number of Bonnyville athletes were selected to compete in the Western Challenge, Alberta Summer Games and the U18 Women’s National Championships.  

“This is the most kids we have had go this far in Team Alberta tournaments and all-star games,” Bandits coach Robert Cole told Lakeland This Week.   

“Over the years it's been really hard to get past those cuts because they have so many good players showing up. So, it's a really big deal to make those teams. This is an exceptional group of athletes and I think they are inspiring more kids to come out. We have a really strong league here.” 

Defensive back John-Mikel Degamo, running back Liam Critch, quarterback Sara Fagnan, receiver Dylan Mahon and running back Daniel Oman spent last season playing football and training under the banner of Bonnyville Minor Football Association. Offensive lineman Connor Critch, who came up through the ranks of Bonnyville's peewee and bantam league, is now playing high school football in Grande Prairie for an elite team.

This summer, all six Bonnyville players have been busy competing on several provincial teams. John-Mikel and Dylan were selected to play for the 2023 U16 Western Challenge on July 9, representing Team Alberta.   

The U16 team would earn bronze at the Western Challenge after beating Team Manitoba 42-7 in their final match of the tournament held in Regina, Sask. 

Brothers Connor and Liam made the 2023 U18 Western Challenge team. The Alberta team played for gold on July 16 in Sherwood Park against the U18 Saskatchewan team. The Bonnyville brothers, along with their team, would take home silver in the tournament. 

Competing in Alberta’s 2023 Summer Games, held in Okotoks, were Liam and Daniel who were selected to play for the North Wild Cats, while Dylan and John-Mikel played for the North Golden Bears teams at the same event. 

In the Summer Games, the North Golden Bears would win their final game 11-6 against the Calgary Metro Dinos on July 20.  

Playing for gold in the Summer Games tournament, the North Wild Cats would come up short against the Calgary Metro Stampeders with a final score of 21- 5. Daniel and Liam’s team would walk away from the Summer Games with a silver medal. 

Meanwhile, Sara, who turned 16 just last week, has taken the position of starting quarterback for Team Alberta’s U18 Women’s team. The national six-a-side tournament took place in Ottawa from July 19-29.

On Saturday, Sara's team earned gold in the national championship match against Team Québec, bringing gold hardware back to Alberta for the second year in a row. With a final score of 52-22, the starting quarterback from Bonnyville had a lot to be proud of.

Sara made a 45 yard pass that was received for a Team Alberta touchdown in the championship game. Her skills on the gridiron, no doubt lead to the success of Alberta's U18 Women's team this season.

Prior to Sara's role with the U18 team, she was the Bonnyville Bandits’ quarterback for the last three years. Last year, the young athlete tried out and made the women’s U18 team but was unable to attend the national tournament due to the COVID vaccination policy in place at the time. 

“The experience so far has been like no other for me as I’m used to playing in the men's league,” Sara told Lakeland This Week. "I’m now playing alongside and against some of the most talented football players in the country. I am grateful for the opportunity to be a starter on a team that has so much talent all around.”

Even before Sara hit the field on Saturday night, she believed her team would be leaving with the title of champions. "I do believe our team will take gold at this tournament because the amount of all around talent, hard work and effort on our team," she said. "But also because of all the amazing coaches who have put there time and effort into each and every athlete on my team."

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