May 27,2014 ISN – The 2014 season is fast approaching for restless football fans across North America, but here in Victoria, your hometown Junior Westshore Rebels are already fully immersed in preparations for a season that aims to rewrite the franchise as we know it.

Despite being prominent in Canada for well over a decade, football has had less than its deserved attention in comparison to our neighbouring USA, but the here in the west, the sheer domination in the sport is becoming hard to ignore. With three time provincial champs, the Mount doug Rams, the ring bearing Victoria Spartans, the sought after football program at Belmont High, and not to meantion Superbowl XLVIII champs, the Seattle Seahawks, the West is becoming hard to ignore, and the Rebels have proven themselves year after year to be at the calibre worthy of standing alongside our Western representatives. This season, the Westshore Rebels are stopping at nothing to earn this.

The CJFL has seen Victoria as an active football town since 1971, and since the “Rebels” debuted their entity in 1998, they have been highly recognized as a strong and competitive team. For their first six seasons, the Rebels were the lone representatives of Junior football for Vancouver Island, taking on teams in their BCFC league stretching from Langley to Kelowna. At the end of the 2002 season, the Rebels had their first head coaching change, which saw long standing Rebel figure, John Cardillichia, step down, and assistant coach Matt Bloker step up. The coaching situation remained and generally succeeded for two seasons, before the new head coach made the decision to move up to Nanaimo and create the Junior Vancouver Island Raiders. Bloker took with him the majority of the gear and players, leaving behind only the costs of obtaining both; this marked the first critical rebuild in Rebel history. Whilst the series of events hit personal levels across the football community, it has since inevitably created a heated but beautiful rivalry between the two powerful teams, fielding games that are infamously unmissable, no matter the allegiance.

If the task of running this caliber of a physical program, and dressing 55+ young men, isn’t financially daunting enough, contrary to most community sports, a junior football organization has the responsibility of providing their team with adequate and safe gear, from belts to pads and helmets. Over the past few seasons, the Rebels have taken on more than their share of financial burdens that have sometimes been comparable only to the dark and ironic humour we can find in the drama-comedy section. The infamous Rebel – Raider incident left this local team with one outstanding bill for gear they no longer had, a new bill for it’s replacement, and yet another when the team bus they were riding to face the Kamloops Broncos in the 2007 season opener went up in flames and burnt to the ground, once again leaving the young team gearless.

Despite financial uncertainty, the Westshore Rebels Board of Directors made the communal decision in this past off season to fight to keep the program running, committing to do whatever it takes to keep the gateway open for young men to accomplish their dreams. The organization is spearheaded by Elise Pastro, who is now in her second year as President, and could quite likely be the change the Rebels have so desperately needed. Her passion as a solid community football figure and mother has proved to be nothing short of infectious, and along with the numerous other Rebel advocates, the emerging 2014 team has adopted a strong belief and drive to make a difference within the community that keeps them alive.

Two months shy of main camp, and only days away from National Signing Day, we are looking at a team made up of mostly local boys, the majority of which are making their Junior debut with the Westshore Rebels. Whilst the young team may lack in veteran power, the league is talking, and these fresh boys are bringing to the table a passion that is both admirable and plain incomparable. The roster is the epitome of a rebuild, and judging by the preseason actics, is a more than positive one.

22 year old linebacker, Chris Pastro, is one of the few eligible returning players, and heading into his fifth and final year in a Rebel’s jersey, he has become a respectable and genuine leader earning his captain status for the team. “The rebuild is more than just on the field. it’s about changing what our community thinks about it’s team. At the end of the day, they are what keeps this team going, their support is everything. So giving back to the community and showing this isn’t the same team as years past is crucial”, explained Pastro when asked about his stance on the rebuild. ‘We want our community to be proud of us and not ashamed to call us their home town team.”

As refreshing as it is to hear such commitment to honour home, actions speak louder than words, and in this case, actions are at a volume hard to ignore. Since gear ups began, the Rebel team has been spreading their community love like wildfire. A local blood drive, a lending hand to Jeneece Place, hard and happy work behind the counter for McHappy Day, a long weekend helping with the Luxton Fair, and donations to such events as the Lifetime Networks Gala, are all small tokens of the appreciation this club has for it’s home and is just a peek into the plans to make a constant difference.

The roar, the passion, and the fight has become an intoxicating and viral epidemic across the country, and the adrenaline filled, family making sport has been capturing the hearts and attention of the people in limitless places. We have, over the years, seen multiple players move up into universities across North America and continue on to be professionals through such schooling, and have also seen a multitude of players go pro. This is what drives the club behind the scenes. The collective mission to provide a safe and structured environment for these young men, and to give each of them the ability to both focus on their passion is sole reason that the lower island maintains the possibility of a hometeam. The drive is the ability to give both local and import boys the opportunity to enrol in such a program, not only to continue their love for football, but to teach the kind of fundamentals that mould men. 

The possibilities and paths are endless, and the Rebels would like to invite their community along for the ride this season. The first home game will be game two for the Rebels, hosting none other than the V.I. Raiders on August 2nd at 7:00pm. Schedule and ticket information can be found on their website at www.westshorerebelsfootball.com. The Rebels association would also like to extend their deepest gratitude for the continued support they have received over the years, and hope that these will be relationships that will grow with years to come. If the Westshore Rebels can be of service to your charity or organization in any way, or if you would like to join in the rally to keep the program alive, information can be found on the website, or by emailing sponsorship@westshorerebels.ca

Kate Duke