The Westshore Rebels are in fine form heading into their 20th season, but it wasn’t without a scare.
Four of the Rebels players were involved in a multi-vehicle crash that occurred July 22 on the Malahat.
Charly Cardilicchia, head coach of the Rebels, said he feels very lucky that the boys got out of their car, “we could have lost four players,” he said.
The vehicle they were driving tipped over on its side and was on fire, so the boys scrambled out of the driver’s side of the car. Cardilicchia said his players told him the car exploded within about 30 seconds from the time they crashed.
Cardilicchia said the four – Kaine Stevenson, Cody Holmes, Mason Brown and Ronan Silver had no serious injuries and will be ready for the start of season. He shared a post of gratitude that his players were alive on Facebook that included a picture with the four in it.
This year marks the 20th season of the Rebels after the franchise re-branded from the Vancouver Island Sharks in ‘98.
Cardilicchia was pleased with how the team came together at main camp.
“The talent and energy level has been great,” he said.
The Rebels have a good core of returning players, receivers Stevenson and D’Saun Greenaway, defensive back Maleek Womak, that Cardilicchia described as a “little ballhawk” and new talent, quarterback Brown and lineman Andrew Woodruff, 16, who the Rebels landed unexpectedly.
“Kaine brings an edge and an attitude that is unlike anybody, he expects the absolute most at all times, wants to win, and is a true competitor,” Cardilicchia said, noting Stevenson is on the war path and has put in a good off-season. He came to the Rebels last year having played fall and spring football and headed right into the Rebels’ season.
Stevenson’s best friend and defensive back, Holmes joined the Rebels this season from St. Mary’s University.
Brown replaces Scott Borden Jr., who will attend the University of Manitoba in U Sports in the fall. Brown has similarities to Borden, Cardilicchia said. Brown is shorter for a QB, athletic, a dual-threat, and Cardilicchia is excited to work with him this season.
“He’s got a really good energy about him,” Cardilicchia said. “He’s got a real good vibe, the team has really taken to him as well.”
Cardilicchia is looking ahead to the Cullen Cup and thinks the Rebels are the team to beat. He said after going 9-1 last season he would rather have another loss to get the team refocused and win the Cup rather than a near-perfect regular season record.
Cardilicchia travelled for nearly a month in the off-season looking for talent to put together the best possible team, making separate trips across Canada to Saskatchewan, Calgary, Southern Alberta and Ontario.
Cardilicchia has a nose for spotting talent, and he said through his background in sales, he’s not afraid to get creative or approach anybody who might be a potential candidate for the team. On one of his recent recruiting trips in his hometown of Hamilton, Cardilicchia went to take in the sights at Devil’s Punchbowl, a vantage point that overlooks the City, when he spotted kids hanging out across the way.
He went over and asked them if they played football and he was right on the money.
Two of the boys, Levar Anderson and Adrian Allan, also went to the same high school as Cardilicchia’s cousin.
Anderson is slated to arrive in Victoria just after the Rebels’ first game of the season, a potential gem that Cardilicchia would never have found if he stuck to traditional recruiting methods.
Cardilicchia said he does a lot of networking through social media, contacting players and coaches, noting that he has found more success talking to players because some coaches will only present him with select players, that leads to missed opportunities for both parties.
The Westshore Rebels start their season on the road this Saturday, Aug. 4 at 4 pm. in Langley. On Aug. 11 they take the field at 4 p.m. for their home opener at Westhills Stadium in Langford against the Okanagan Sun. At the time of main camp, the Rebels were still waiting on roughly 10 players to round out the team, who were waiting for billets or pending family health circumstances.