COLD LAKE – After winning the title of both Western and National Champions in the Canadian Major Football League (CMFL) last year, the Cold Lake Fighter Jets are back at it again and looking to add more players and championship cups to its collection.
After moving from Lloydminster to Cold Lake in 2019, the team saw an unprecedented level of success in 2022. The Fighter Jets went undefeated in the 2022 regular season, then won the Alberta Football League (AFL) championship game 55-0 against the Airdrie Irish on Aug. 20.
The win against the Irish meant that the Fighter Jets would go head-to-head against the Northern Football Conference champs, the GTA All Stars from Ontario.
The Fighter Jets hosted the GTA All Stars at Thomas Varughese Field on Sept. 17, and came out of the championship game with a 35-18 victory.
With the slogan, “Built, not bought,” the Fighter Jets have a clear mandate for how they plan to continue building the football club – recruitment and focusing on a healthy team culture.
“We understand what we did last year and what it took, we understand that other teams are going to want to do the same thing that we did. So, we are going to continue to try and recruit the best players and get the best coaches and create the best game plan,” said Fighter Jets player, administrator and special teams and defensive coordinator, Teague Sherman.
As the 2023 regular season approaches, players and volunteers are preparing for another unstoppable season, which includes more than recruiting new players and training. Fighter Jet supporters are also seeking sponsors and billet families for players arriving from other provinces and countries.
“Ever since the team moved here in 2019, every year I would say the community and the city gets more and more behind us,” Sherman said. “Last year, they were really involved honestly from the beginning and then all the way up to Nationals. The city was a huge part of everything that we have achieved and same with Bonnyville.”
Fighter Jets have also been busy reaching out to graduating high school students from across the Lakeland, from Cold Lake to Lloydminster. The hope is to grow passion for the game locally but also provide a way for young adults to continue playing if university football is not an option.
“There are many avenues that could bring you to our team,” acknowledged Sherman.
Whether someone has extensive football experience and just needs more film to generate greater visibility or has never played football but wants to try it out, Sherman says the Fighter Jets will welcome them all.
While the league requires players to be a minimum of 18 years old, there is an exception for 17-year-olds who have already graduated high school, explained Sherman. “We have 18-year-olds on our team, and we have 54-year-olds,” he chuckled.
The Fighter Jets 2023 roster likely won’t be confirmed until after the two training camps scheduled in May take place.
“Our winter training sessions are open to anybody... It's more of a meet and greet. A quick training session to see what we are about,” said Sherman. “The team doesn’t have official tryouts per say but our training camps encourages people to come out and grow their skills with the team.”
Off-season training for those interested in joining the Fighter Jets is taking place at the Cold Lake Energy Centre. The next training session will take place on April 16, with outdoor training to be scheduled soon, weather permitting.
The Fighter Jets will be holding two training camps this spring. The first is scheduled for the May 5 weekend in Bonnyville, and will include four practices, one on Friday, two on Saturday and one on Sunday.
The second training camp will be held in Cold Lake over the weekend of May 26 and will conclude with a pre-season tailgate party and scrimmage on May 28 at Varughese Field where the community is invited to attend.
“We want the community to come out, watch and meet the new players of the year. Because our first game is an away game, and our first home game is until June 10, we figured it'd be a good way to get the players to meet some of the people in the community and for all of us to have some fun.”
More information about registration and upcoming games can be found at www.coldlakefighterjets.wordpress.com