By Lethbridge Herald on May 19, 2015.
There were more southern Alberta players than ever before at this seasonâ€™s Football Alberta Bantam Bowl. And for what itâ€™s worth, the 31-13 win by Team South over Team North was also the largest margin of victory ever.
Whether you believe in coincidence or not, the weekend showcase of bantam-aged football talent from across the province was a success for the local Southern Alberta Minor Football Association and its players. The weekendâ€™s action gave players exposure to coaching and put them in unfamiliar situations.
â€œI was a lineman and running back half my season,â€ said Raymond Jr. Cometsâ€™ Parker Graves. â€œSo I learned tons being a wideout this weekend.â€
Graves was one of 11 SAMFA players in the field, a record for the region, led by four players from the Lethbridge Jr. Rams and four from the Brooks Roadrunners. Brooks coach Jaret Hofer was the Southâ€™s head coach.
Lethbridge sent a record number of players to the team, the most in the six occasions the Bantam Bowl has been held.
It goes every other year, with the Alberta Summer Games being run in the interim years.
The Jr. Rams sent slotbackÂ Jack Halvorson, running back Kody Martyshuk, linebacker Evan Snedden and defensive tackle Tyler Lentz to the team. The Jr. Coyotes sent the first-ever representatives from their program as defensive back Connor Lozza and RB Tim Prankard carried the flag for their side.
â€œIt was good, the coaches were great, I learned a lot from them,â€ said Lozza. He played most of the game on the right side, getting a chance to rush the quarterback a few times from his backfield spot. One of his biggest plays came as Team North tried to cut the deficit in the fourth quarter. With Fort McMurrayâ€™s Jaegar Hammerstrom shaking tacklers off all over, Lozza broke him down in the open field and spun him to the ground.
â€œI was glad I had a chance to make some plays, thatâ€™s all you can really ask for, is a chance,â€ said Lozza.
Ramsâ€™ defensive lineman Lentz was stuck in the trenches all game, relegated to collapsing the interior of the North line, a task his six-foot, 240-pound frame handled well.
â€œIt was a tough game for receivers,â€ said Graves. â€œIt was a marching game. It was just marching up and down the field, not a lot of big plays.â€
The gameâ€™s biggest play was a 40-yard touchdown run in the first quarter by Northâ€™s Evan Denet of Spruce Grove. They missed the ensuing covert andÂ were up just 6-0. The South stormed back in the second quarter, as quarterback Matteo Spoletini had his two-yard scoring run converted by Seth Nelson. Spoletini was the Southâ€™s player of the game. Shortly after, Nelson hit a 33-yard field goal to give the South a 10-6 lead.
Esteban Velazco capped off a North drive with a two-yard plunge and the conversion gave the North a 13-10 lead that held up until a pair of touchdown throws from Spoletini in the third quarter. He hit Tyler Santos and Austin Lymer for scores, with Nelson kicking conversions for a 24-13 lead.
â€œThe biggest change is the competition level and how professional it is compared to the season,â€ said Ramsâ€™ Halvorson. â€œEvery player here is pretty equal so it challenges you, makes you work a bit harder to get noticed.â€
The South went up 31-13 in the fourth quarter on a Mason David reach across the plane of the goal-line before Team North marched right down the field and looked threatening. A couple of defensive stops thanks to locals Snedden and Lozza, and Prankard finally got a chance to strut his stuff in an extended run of carries. From near his own goal line, Prankard showed a different side to the roadrunner he is in league competition. Prankard patiently followed his blocks and not only ran his team out of trouble, but got them to midfield with a trio of carries.
â€œIt felt great, I got some great blocking from my teammates,â€ he said. â€œItâ€™s definitely different, you have to follow your blocks, it isnâ€™t just about being fast, youâ€™ve got to be smart and trust your blockers and your teammates.â€
Prankardâ€™s best play might have a been a third-quarter pancake block which sent David on a long second-down run which gave South a first down, and likely gave his opponent a few bruises.
â€œIt was a good weekend. There was a lot of work to do, but it was worthwhile and I think we all learned a lot,â€ he said. â€œI had a lot of fun.â€
And winning in front a home crowd?
â€œDefinitely nice to get a win in front of everybody,â€ said Lozza. â€œYou donâ€™t want to lose, you want to win big at home.â€
NOTES â€” This Bantam Bowl was the first to feature a female player, with Calgary Cowboys Randi Bell patrolling the offensive line for Team South. … The South is 5-1 in Bantam Bowls. … Randy Hyland, who coaches the Jr. Rams, was an assistant on the South team.