Knights making waves in Aloha State

Football: Holy Trinity Academy prepares in Hawaii

By: Bruce Campbell

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Aug 27, 2014 06:00 am

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The Holy Trinity Academy Knights are hoping hanging out with a roasted pig on a beach will help them with the pigskin.

The Knights football team took in a luau as part of their football scrimmages in Hawaii last week.

“We will practice in the morning and do some team things in the afternoon,” said Knights head coach Matt Hassett, prior to departing. “A beach day, a luau, go to Pearl Harbor, but football is the glue that kind of holds everything together.”

Hassett got the idea to travel to the United States after being a coach of the Football Alberta team that made the trek to the Aloha State nearly a decade ago.

“Being on that coaching staff and exposing the kids to the football culture south of the border was just a great experience — and I said to myself this is something I have to give to my high school football team,” he said.

The team goes stateside every three years, so every Knight has an opportunity to play stateside if they play football for his entire high school career.

There is some precedence that these out-of-country football excursions pay dividends.

“It is kind of ironic, that every year we have made that trip, that is the furthest we have ever gone in provincials,” Hassett said.

In 2008, the Knights travelled to San Diego and wound up going to the Tier III provincial semifinal. In 2011 HTA lost in the provincial final, some three months after going to San Francisco in the fall.

Knights linebacking coach Charlie Power said the trip to San Diego helped bring the team together in 2008.

“Team building was one of the biggest things, it keeps guys close,” said Power, who is now a fullback on the Calgary Stampeders’ practice roster.

Billy Pickering, a defensive back on the 2008 squad, said steps were taken to ensure the team bonded and didn’t splinter into cliques.

“Every senior was roomed with a rookie,” said Pickering who was a senior on the team.

“It was smart, because I remember the rookies coming back and saying now they felt like a Knight…I made some friends I still see from that trip.”

This year’s trip won’t all be a day at the beach.

Football is paramount.

They will scrimmage and ultimately play a Hawaiian school. Hassett’s best coaching decision in the young season so far has been his scheduling.

After all, nobody wants to go to the beach and have sand kicked in his face.

“They tried to have us play Hawaii’s best team and they are ranked something like fifth in the entire United States,” Hassett said. “We will be scrimmaging against one of the top teams on the Island though.”

Veteran linebacker Jonathan Leggett believes the trip will pay dividends this season.

“We’re not looking at it as a vacation,” Leggett said. “We’re going to get some experience against some U.S. teams.”

Fellow linebacker Cian Booth agreed.

“We are going to do lot of team building over there,” Booth said. “We will be busting heads against some American boys — there’s a lot of talent that we can learn from.”

Rookie cornerback Ben Hutt hopes to learn plenty.

“This is my first year of playing football and I think I can learn a lot of new skills and get better,” said the Grade 10 Hutt.

Not only are the Americans talented, they also play by a different set of rules in the United States. Hassett wants to make sure his receivers and backs have their feet firmly planted on the ground.

In the U.S. receivers and backs can’t move forward before the snap, while in Canada they can move like Jagger.

“I remember in San Francisco one of our receivers was right in front of me and I was yelling: ‘Don’t move!’ because we were getting so many penalties,’” Hassett said with a laugh.

“Two seconds later, he took a step forward.”

The Knights are back in Canadian soil and will butt heads against the Brooks Buffalos at 6 p.m. on Friday Aug. 30 at Holy Trinity Academy.

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