August 21, 2021. Victoria, BC (ISN) – The Westshore Rebels of the BC Football Conference closed its main camp on Saturday afternoon at Starlight Stadium with sights set on a winning, if not a championship season.
After completing a successful 2019 season, falling just short in the Cullen Cup championship to the Langley Rams, the Langford-based team did not sit back on their laurels in a locked-down, pandemic 2020 season. Making some positive player acquisitions during the CoVid-19 lock-down, Head Coach Shane Beatty and President Rob Lervold took advantage of the 19-month break to build, not only a stronger team, but also a stronger organization with a long-term vision and support from local business.
In a recent, early August announcement, the Westshore Rebels entered into an agreement with new title sponsor Viking Properties. The three-year keystone agreement with the locally-owned company, and other local sponsors, will allow the Westshore Rebels organization to build towards their vision of making the Rebels the top national junior football team in Canada, from the back office, the coaching staff, and to player development on and off the field.
The 2021 Rebels coaching staff began to see some of the fruits of their off-season labour this week during their week-long main camp. With only a handful of returning players from 2019, the retooled Rebels will boast 39 elite, local island players, with imports from Vancouver, B.C, and the remainder of Canada to fill out the currently seventy-seven-man roster.
The Rebels organization has been active at the grassroots level in Victoria for three years now, helping coach and mentor community and high school teams and is now beginning to reap the benefits of their efforts with some high calibre, high school graduates signing on with the Langford team.
Asked about how the Rebel’s organization was able to recruit such a strong talent base during a pandemic, President Rob Lervold would explain, “It’s been a grind. This (current player roster) is really two recruiting classes. We recruited a really strong class for the 2020 season that obviously never saw the field, and then, again, Coach Beatty has done a great job bringing the 2021 recruiting class. We’ve been fortunate to keep most of those players (from both years). Our biggest challenge this year so far has been finding housing for our out-of-town players. We still are still trying to find beds for about six players.”
On the field it was hard to find weakness on offense or defense. The Rebels appear to have a quality margin of depth at most positions this year that should serve the team well late into the season. Injury woes have hurt the Rebels over the past few seasons that some might say could have prevented them from reaching the next level. The Rebels, after their 2016 BCFC Championship, have found themselves runners-up after appearing in two subsequent BCFC finals in 2018 and 2019, but have been unable to regain a BCFC Championship and contest for a national since 2016 when they hosted the Canadian National Championship in Langford.
In an interview with Head Coach Shane Beatty after camp, it seemed hard for Beatty to hold back his enthusiasm for what he has seen over the past five days on the offensive side of the ball. “In my seven-eight years in Canada I have truly not seen anything this fast. It’s just unbelievable. We have a lot of great athletes (both offensively and defensively).”
Returning to the offensive helm for his final season is veteran quarterback, is 6’5 240lb Colby Henkel. For Henkel, the return to play is a much anticipated one. After an upper body injury suffered in the first game of the season side-lined him for the remaining 2019 season, and then a Covid lockdown-induced layoff for the 2020 season, there was a little extra zip on the pig-skin in his return to formal play at main camp. Not hesitant to test his newly-recruited receiving core and his arm, Henkel looked just as much at ease throwing the longball forty yards downfield with touch as throwing short with pace.
When asked about Henkel’s return to the team Head Coach Shane Beatty would comment, “Colby looks like the Colby when he took the “Rookie of the Year”. He’s taken full leadership of this team right now. He’s in command of the passing game and I’m really, really, truly happy for him.” Henkel received “Rookie of the Year” in the CJFL in 2016 for his outstanding play with the Kamloops Broncos, throwing for 2,186 yards and 17 touchdowns to his credit.
Leading Henkel’s offensive line “protection crew” is another Rebel veteran in 6’4” 290lb Tyrese Hogue. Hogue, one of many success stories out of the Greater Victoria Minor Football Association and the Mount Doug Rams, was named the Rebel’s 2018 and 2019 “Top Offensive Lineman of the Year”, and a BCFC offensive all-star also in the 2019 season before committing to the 2020 UBC Thunderbirds.
Defensively, the Rebels looked equally as quick to the ball as their offensive teammates. “Up front we are really good on defense. We’re fast, we’re big.”, Coach Beatty would say. “Our players are 290 lbs inside, and our ends are tall and long. Our (defensive) backs are loaded. So, I feel really good about that.” Asked if there is room for improvement Beatty would add, “I think we can be more physical, mentally get after it (the ball).”
All would agree that a main camp does not decide a season, however, the Rebels back office and coaching staff have high team expectations and feel that their season will be one for local football fans to come out and watch. Early CJFL preseason power rankings place the Rebels in third spot in the nation.
The Westshore Rebel’s season will start with a road game against the Okanagan Sun of Kelowna on September 11th, but will return to Starlight Stadium (formerly Westhills Stadium) in Langford for their home-opener on September 18th against the Chilliwack Valley Huskers. Game time is 4:00 pm.