Bengals wear a variety of stripes

Football: Players for new midget from foothills area schools

By: Bruce Campbell

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Feb 26, 2014 06:00 am

Running back Jeus Mapatac gets some air during a drill at the Big Rock Midget Bengals dry-land training practice Feb. 19 at the Bishop O’Byrne High School in Calgary.
Running back Jeus Mapatac gets some air during a drill at the Big Rock Midget Bengals dry-land training practice Feb. 19 at the Bishop O’Byrne High School in Calgary.
Bruce Campbell/OWW

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Some high school rivals are wearing the same stripes on the gridiron this spring.

The Big Rock Bengals have begun dry-land training for the upcoming Calgary and Area Midget Football Association season — the first time there has been a midget team in Okotoks since the Foothills Eagles fielded a squad in the late 2000s.

Players from the Foothills Falcons, Holy Trinity Academy Knights and one Highwood Mustang were just some of the Bengals getting ready at practice in Calgary Feb. 19. Defensive lineman Tanner Mullen is pumped about the new program, which is for players from Grade 9 to 11.

“I am excited — it’s a chance to get to know some guys from the other high school teams,” said Mullen, who was a d-lineman with the Foothills Falcons. “This is just going to make me a better player.”

He is looking forward to playing with guys like HTA running back Jeus Mapatac, who Mullen played with during their Foothills Bantam Eagles’ days in 2011.

“He’s really good,” Mullen said. “Right now, we aren’t Falcons or Knights, we’re Bengals.”

The “Big Rock” represents the schools and the communities in the area, not the great beer.

“We get kids from the Comp, HTA, High River and we expect to have some from the Claresholm and Nanton area,” said Bengals head coach Bruce Marlow. “The whole idea is to get kids better for football for their schools in the fall… We put a lot of emphasis on fundamentals.”

Marlow has a legacy in midget football.

He was a coach of the Calgary Colts and more recently with the Invermere Bighorns, who won the B.C. championship in 2011. The Bighorns had few players the next year and folded. As a result, Marlow not only has a field in Invermere, but also happens to have a whack of equipment that isn’t being used.

“I have enough equipment for 70 kids — so I have all this equipment sitting there doing nothing,” said Marlow.

His son, Rock, who is a coach with the Foothills Falcons, urged his dad to help start a midget program in Okotoks which would help all the schools in the area.

Midget rules state a team cannot have more than 60 per cent of their players coming from one high school football team — to ensure no schools are using the program as an extended spring camp to get ready for the fall.

Marlow said there are no hidden agendas to try and recruit players to certain schools — the goal is to promote football.

Mapatac is all for it.

“I’ve only played three years of football, and after one year playing with HTA, it made me love the game even more,” said the HTA running back. “So I decided to play midget football too, it’s going to make me a better football player.”

Kilian Friesen, a Grade 9 student with the Highwood High School Mustangs, was the lone player from that school at the Bengals practice.

“I just love playing football,” said the Cayley area quarterback. “I like playing with these guys from Okotoks because they have played more. I’m trying to get more guys out from High River.”

Friesen, Mapatac and Mullen also share a love of rugby.

All three plan to play for their respective school teams in the spring.

Marlow said he is aware of the importance of rugby at both the school and community level, which runs at the same time as the Bengals.

“Athletes are athletes — if our guys want to play rugby we want to accommodate them,” Marlow said, adding the Bengals practices would be held after rugby practices. The Bengals play their first game on April 2 at Shouldice Park in Calgary.

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