Lancers take to the gridiron for another season
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Lancers take to the gridiron for another season

The energy was palpable when Elmira District Secondary School seniors walked onto the football field September 20 for their opening home game, winning an impressive victory and paying tribute to a fellow player and former Lancer Brandon Nickel, who passed away in July.

The senior EDSS’ Lancers enjoyed a 28-14 win against the Vikings on September 20, beating the Waterloo Collegiate Institute team for the first time.[Will Sloan / The Observer]
The senior EDSS’ Lancers enjoyed a 28-14 win against the Vikings on September 20, beating the Waterloo Collegiate Institute team for the first time. [Will Sloan / The Observer]
“They are giving nothing but 100 per cent in his honour. They are playing with a lot of pride on his behalf, they are wearing his number on their helmets,” said seniors’ coach Steven Karn this week.

The 20-year-old Conestogo man, who died in a car accident in July, was a graduate of the school who loved to play football. The fifth-year students on this season’s squad were his teammates. Nickel’s jersey is kept in a display case at EDSS, to be presented to his family at a future game.

The team’s determination may pay off, with seniors Kyle Wideman, Mitch Kernick, Alex Weber and Jordan Frey taking the lead as key players. Last week’s opening game saw the Lancers achieve an unheard-of victory, beating Waterloo Collegiate Institute Vikings for the first time by a score of 28-14.

“Offensively and defensively they did exceptionally well. Jordan Frey threw two beautiful, long touchdown passes to Kyle Wideman and Mitch Kernick – he was exceptional. He ran back a 90-yard punt, had numerous runs over 20 yards. All of the guys, they stepped up and played exceptionally well,” Karn said.

The seniors squad is again in the A division after losing in the semi-finals last season. This year they aim for a big win at the Waterloo County Secondary School Athletic Association (WCSSAA) championships, hoping to match the likes of WCI’s Vikings and Sir John A. MacDonald Collegiate, the two-time defending champions.

The EDSS juniors, meanwhile, warmed up with a tough first game, losing 27-7 to St. David’s Celtics, also on September 20.

The freshmen who make up most of this year’s junior lineup had something of a learning experience in their first high school match.

“The first half was kind of a rude awakening,” said coach John Swatridge.

“We have mostly Grade 9s, so that was their first game ever in their life. First off we didn’t do that well.”

By halftime the Celtics were ahead 20-0 and it wasn’t until the second half when the Lancers got into the game, matching the apposition’s next seven points.

“Our offense worked better, our defence was better and it was a much better game. We’re hoping to build on that. They started to figure out what needed to be done to win a game and make a good play,” Swatridge said of the latter part of the match.

The coach chalked up his young team’s rough start to a lack of experience – just two weeks ago most of the teammates were learning to put on their equipment – and hopes that practice and will do the trick for the hardworking team. A few minor injuries have also kept young players from the field, he added.

“They’re improving every day. … They practice well, they’re eager to learn and practice hard. They’re out every night, so that’s good to see – a good bunch of kids.”

Last year’s teams had some success at the end of the season, with the juniors making the A-division playoffs.

The juniors play Resurrection Catholic School at home on October 17, while the seniors take on Preston High School on October 2 at the EDSS field. Game times are 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. respectively.

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