LAKELAND – Football Alberta kicked off their 2021 Summer Series and there were a number of local football players who made the rosters.
Titus Fagnan and Helmon Ndose both made the U18 north team, Connor Critch and Lucas Vining have scored themselves a spot on the Edmonton North Wildcats, and Harrison Thir, Liam Critch, and Lyle Farris made the Edmonton North Golden Bears.
According to a Football Alberta press release, the Summer Series is “our way of allowing the players who signed up for our provincial-level programming in January to conclude with competitions this summer. Since in 2021 there is no Football Canada Cup for our U18’s, no Pacific Challenge for our U17’s, and no Alberta Summer Games for our U16’s, these games will be the only competition for elite provincial-level competition in 2021 for Alberta football players.”
Selection camps were held earlier in the month across Alberta with over 800 athletes in attendance to see who would make one of the eight teams.
When asked how the camps were, Connor noted it was “a little scary” because of the unknowns surrounding the other players.
“We didn’t know what we were going up against because we didn’t know if people (trained) like my family did. If they did or didn’t train and we didn’t know what to expect because we didn’t play other teams. We didn’t get to see our opponents we were going up against,” he recalled.
This wasn’t the first time the offensive lineman tried out at the provincial level. In 2019, he made the U16 team with his older brother, Duncan. Connor felt a bit more confident heading into these tryouts, mainly due to the training he's done over the past couple of years.
“I think it was because of my age and all of the skills and techniques I learned over the past two years that I’ve been off and had time to think and take in what the coaches told me from when I got emails back from them,” he explained. “I’ve been training on making sure my stance is good, I don’t open my gait, and stuff like that to make me an all-around better lineman.”
Connor also headed onto the field for this tryout alongside his brother, Liam, who made a provincial team for the first time.
Like many bantam-level players, Liam didn’t get to experience his first year at this age level due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, that didn’t stop him from making an impression on the coaches.
“I’ve always wanted to try to do something on the provincial-level to see if I was good enough to make the teams. Now that I see I can make them, I feel like I can try more and maybe make a career out of football,” he expressed.
This year was also the first time Vining decided to try his luck for a provincial roster. He had been playing football with the Cold Lake Ravens for four years before his dad brought up the opportunity.
When the outlineman heard he had made the Edmonton North Wildcats, he was surprised but excited.
“I’m young in comparison to a lot of the kids there that were older, bigger, faster, and better.”
Vining plans to continue to try out for teams at this level and believes they could help him in his future.
“It helps with just building a rapport with college teams,” he noted, adding a scholarship would help him with his post-secondary education.
Vining was glad when his fellow Cold Lake teammates, Thir and Farris, also made provincial teams.
Thir isn’t a stranger to these sorts of teams. His dad also played football and made Team Alberta. That made Thir want to follow in his father’s footsteps.
“Ever since I was like 10, I wanted to play football,” he said.
He started playing in Bonnyville for the Bandits before joining the Ravens. He previously tried out for a provincial team before making the Golden Bears this year.
With all of the athletes from across the province that tried out, Thir was glad that he and some other Cold Lake players were chosen.
“There were a lot of kids from the city there. I think everybody deserves to make it but there’s only 34 that got in. There were a lot of good kids and skill out there to play against,” he said.
This was the first time both Fagnan and Ndose had tried out and made a provincial team.
Fagnan has spent his whole minor football career in Bonnyville. Like Vining, he wanted to get his name out there to see how far he can get in the sport.
“I’ve got to get in every opportunity to get seen by coaches and scouts from universities and this was the big event for that. It was to test the waters.”
He added, “My goal is to make it as far as I can with my sport.”
After being off for so long, the running back said it felt great to be back on the field and putting his skills to the test against players from across the province.
“I like that it’s a physical sport and I like the team atmosphere. You’ve got to rely on your teammates and not just one person.”
Ndose hasn’t been playing football for very long. When his family moved to Canada from Germany, a coach with the St. Paul Lions recruited him when he was in Grade 9.
When he heard about the provincial teams, he decided to sign up for a new experience.
“It was tough. There were a lot of good guys there but I just listened to my coaches and my family and had fun.”
The defensive tackle hopes to continue playing and to get better.
All of the teams hit the field on Sunday, July 18 in Red Deer to see who would come out on top. The U18 Team North fell 24-23 to U18 Team South, while the Edmonton North Golden Bears bested the Calgary Metro Colts 26-13. The North Edmonton Wildcats were bested 13-12 by the Calgary Metro Dinos.