The Westshore Warriors atom football team put an exclamation mark on a remarkable season on Sunday with a one-sided win in the Gold Cup.
The Warriors, made up of players ranging from seven to nine years of age, capped off a nine-win, one-loss regular season with a 28-7 victory over the Cowichan Bulldogs in Ladysmith in the Vancouver Island Football League championship game.
Warriors coach Paul Precious said Sunday’s game marked only the first time the team had trailed at halftime all season.
“We were down 7-6 but the kids never panicked,” said Precious, a veteran coach on the West Shore since 1998. “They showed a lot of character and just played their game like we have all season. It was a total team effort on offense and defense.”
While the old adage is that defenses win championships, Precious pointed out that this year’s Warriors team was powered by a strong running attack as well. The defense answered the bell consistently throughout the season.
The Warriors allowed the fewest points of any team in three different age categories, giving up a miserly total of 40 during the regular season.
“Our defensive coach Dave Hansen was great,” he noted. “He did a fantastic job of getting the kids prepared and working together.”
The Gold Cup was especially sweet for a number of players on the team who came up short in last year’s championship tilt against Saanich, Precious added. “A lot of those players came back bound and determined to win a championship after being so close last year. Quite a few of our younger players were great additions as well.”
Lucy Hansen, manager of the Warriors atom and peewee teams, credited the support of the Westshore Rebels players, who took the time to work with the younger players frequently as coaches and during practice throughout the year. “They had a huge impact on the younger players,” noted Hansen, who the Warriors lovingly refer to as “momager.”
“The involvement and support the team received from parents played a big role in the team’s success and fostered the player’s commitment to giving back to their community.
“We did a food drive with the peewee team and filled the shelves of the Goldstream Food Bank,” said Hansen, whose two sons are involved in the sport. Last year’s community efforts were highlighted by a fundraiser for cancer research.
Precious said the population growth on the West Shore bodes well for the future of the sport. “It’s great to see the growth and the number of kids getting involved in the sport,” said Precious, who also coaches in the fall league. “The future of football on the West Shore looks really strong.”