You don’t become an MVP from the sidelines.
Payton Price first strapped on his birded football helmet for the Foothills Falcons during a 22-0 loss to the St. Francis Browns back on Sept. 3, 2015.
He wore it for 38 more consecutive games en route to three provincial championships and ultimately being named the Falcons Most Valuable Player during the team’s awards banquet Dec. 12 at the Centennial Centre.
“There is a saying you can’t make the club in the tub,” Falcons assistant coach Jackie Kellogg said of Price. “This kid was always there every night ready to go, in the practices and in the games – never missed time. That’s what makes him an all-star.”
It also doesn’t hurt that Price has a load of talent.
The 6-foot-1, 185-pounder had to carry the load early in the 2017 season with Tyson Pitcher — the Falcons’ Most Valuable Offensive player — and all-purpose back Payton Burbank out with injuries.
“During the first couple games of the season I could feel it definitely take a toll on my body,” Price said. “At the beginning of the season, we were definitely a running team.”
His durability is a result of having a solid o-line that protects the Falcons backfield and his stretching his workouts a little longer.
“It was a lot of hard work, putting in the time of effort to get where I wanted to be, not doing the fun stuff,” Price said. “I’m not a big fan of stretching for example. It seems like a simple thing that you have to do, but it really does a lot.”
The return of the Falcons Offensive Player of the Year was one of the turning points for the Falcons’ season.
Once Tyson Pitcher returned from injury and took over the reins at quarterback in early October, Foothills didn’t lose a game en route to its third straight title.
He also had a calming influence on Falcons offensive co-ordinator John Price.
Price, who has Hufnagel-like experience when it comes to amateur football coaching, recalled climbing the walls before a key game when he was approached by Pitcher who told him ‘Don’t worry coach, we’ve got this one.’
“That says a lot about him,” John Price said of Pitcher.
While coach Price has been calmed, defensive-co-ordinator Nathan St. Dennis admitted he’s losing sleep over having to replace the defensive player and special teams player of the year, Seth Nelson, when he graduates in June.
St. Dennis recalled Nelson making a mistake in which he got burned at defensive back in his first high school game in 2015 — a rookie going up against the highly-touted St. Francis Browns.
St. Dennis said Nelson learned from that rare mistake and was steadfast and focused throughout his Falcons career.
As for special teams, Nelson could kick field goals from beyond 40 yards, and there was a better chance of a rooster missing a sunrise than Nelson missing a convert.
He also returned punts.
Falcons head coach Darren Olson said all of the players played not only a key part on the team, but also in the school community.
“I am so proud to be affiliated with them — and there is 43 of them — the way they grow on the field and off the field and the way they are committed to academics,” Olson said. “It speaks volumes to where they come from, the support they have with their families. It is reflective of the way they act as young men… It is a gift to have the opportunity to work with them.”
The recipients at the 2017 Foothills Falcons Awards banquet: Most Valuable Player — Payton Price; Offensive Player of the Year — Tyson Pitcher; Defensive Player of the Year — Seth Nelson; Special Teams Player of the Year — Nelson; Lineman of the Year — Matt Bruce; Defensive Rookie of the Year — Carson Remus; Co-rookie and Inspiration — Jacob Croteau; Offensive Rookie of the Year — Parker Nakamura, Josh Groome (runner-up)