New coach heads experienced staff
Football: Strong staff coaching Falcons football team
By: Bruce Campbell
| Posted: Wednesday, Sep 04, 2013 06:00 am
The new head coach of the Foothills Falcons football team has four Saskatchewan provincial high school championships on his resumé at famed Notre Dame. However, Darren Olson might have had five if it wasn’t for the school’s new defensive co-ordinator Nathan St. Dennis.
“Nathan played at Central in Moose Jaw and they beat us in a provincial final one year,” Olson said at team testing at Foothills Composite on Aug. 22. “So I am going to get even with him. I don’t know how yet, maybe I will sneak up on him. But I’ve got to be careful — he’s a pretty big dude.”
Even with the loss, Olson has an impressive resumé, which includes a university championship. Olson was an offensive lineman for the 1983 Vanier Cup champion University of Calgary Dinos, which was elected into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame in 2010. One of his teammates will help him coach now and then at Foothills, Bryan Brandford, principal of Okotoks Junior High School (Colin Sheedy, a former HTA Knights coach, also played for the ’83 Dinos).
“You can never have too many good coaches and Bryan obviously has a lot of experience and knows the community,” Olson said. “We have been friends for 35 years now, he’s a good guy to have around for sure.”
The Dinos featured former Stamps quarterback Greg Vavra and o-lineman Tom Spoletini as well as Canadian Football Hall of Fame coach Peter Connellan.
“He was always organized, ready for practice and pretty demanding,” Olson said of Connellan. “You either fall into line or fall out of line with him, but definitely Peter was a big influence. As demanding as he was, he was still a players’ coach.”
Olson taught at a junior high school in Calgary after graduation from university. He went to Notre Dame in Wilcox, SK in 1986 and was there for 21 years.
“Everybody thinks of hockey when they think of Notre Dame, but it also has other great sports teams — rugby, girls basketball and I won four provincial championships when I was there.”
He now strives to continue the success of the Falcons’ program, which has won four provincial championships since 2000.
“The biggest thing is making sure the system that you use fits the players that you have got,” Olson said. “If I have a big strong offensive line and a big running back, you want to pound the ball, if you got speed guys, you want to get outside.”
He said he hasn’t seen enough of the 2013 squad to determine what team he is going to have.
“You never know exactly what you have until you can evaluate on the field,” Olson said. “We had about 32 out (Aug. 22) and there is a lot of enthusiasm.”
However, it won’t matter whether the Falcons use the wishbone, the fly, of the old T-formation, there will be one common denominator.
“Offence, defence, special teams, it’s all about hard work — that is the biggest thing,” he said.
Olson spent the last five years teaching at Tanbridge Academy, in Calgary. He said while he enjoyed his time there, teaching high school students is a better fit for him. He will teach phys ed and sports medicine at the Comp.
“This is one of the best high school football situations in Alberta,” he said. “Just look. We have the weightroom right on campus, community support and the great rivalry game every year against (Holy Trinity Academy). It’s like a small-town America feel here.”
St. Dennis joined the Falcons after the physical education teacher was transferred from Highwood High School in High River in early June to Foothills. He said he felt he was starting to turn the corner with the Highwood Mustangs after the team struggled over the past five years.
“I wish all the best to them,” said St. Dennis, who lives in Okotoks. “I hadn’t planned on leaving especially when you put so much time and effort with those kids and you build up those relationships.
“But on the flipside I eventually wanted to end up here because I have two young boys who are growing up and I want to be able to coach them. I just didn’t think it would be this quick.”
He plans to be there for a while — his children are five and two years old.
St. Dennis must feel he has a plethora of riches when he looks at the brainpower on the Falcons’ coaching staff with Olson, Darren Stuber, Brandford, offensive co-ordinator Jayson Krause, former CFLer Jackie Kellogg and others.
“It is going to be great to have all that help,” St. Dennis said. “I didn’t have this much help at Highwood, but it was a very good coaching situation for me at Highwood. I think it made me a better coach.”
However, he has to be on his toes at Foothills — St. Dennis doesn’t know when the head coach is going to get even for that provincial championship.
“I was in Grade 11 and I didn’t know until he told me,” he said. “I played nose guard and it was my one provincial win as a player.”
The Falcons opened their 2013 high school football season on Aug. 31 in Lethbridge, beating the LCI Rams 32-16. Their first home game is on Sept. 6.