Latest posts by Dryden Observer (see all)
- Denis Belleville – July 18, 1940 – April 4, 2019 - May 3, 2019
- Mary Ellen Mennell – May 3, 1935 – April 16, 2019 - April 24, 2019
- Eeva Rita Katariina Macdonald – December 22, 1946 – April 1st, 2019 - April 24, 2019
By Chris Marchand
The Dryden High School Eagles capped off a perfect 10-0 season, Nov. 9 claiming a 21-0 win over the Portage Collegiate Trojans in the Winnipeg High School Football League’s Canad Inns Bowl Game.
Hundreds of Dryden fans made the four hour drive to Winnipeg’s Investors Group Field to witness a memorable chapter in the football program’s history as the Dryden program clinched the championship for the third time since joining the WHSFL.
Memories of a narrow defeat in the last few minutes of last year’s semi-final were on the lips of the jubilant players.
“I really have no words,” said Grade 11 linebacker Joel Ottertail. “Last year we sort of got cut off from the playoffs. It was a heartbreaker, but now we’re here, hoisting the cup. It’s so surreal right now. All I can think about right now is cup, cup, cup.”
Last season’s disappointment became a huge motivating factor for the club whose approach to the season was to leave no margin for error or allow outside influence to determine the outcome of a game, sentiments summed up by the team’s motto — Leave No Doubt.
“Couldn’t ask for anything more than this, it’s been a long time coming,” said running back Liam Wrolstad. “Last year was very heartbreaking, so to end it like this is really special.”
The Eagles were able to exploit their best offensive opportunities in the game’s first half with the tank-like Wrolstad driving two touchdowns in from close range. Quarterback Jarret Hicks claimed the other Eagles touchdown, also from the one-yard line.
As the Portage defence clamped down on the Eagles offence up in the second half, the game became a pitched battle over the same 30 yards of real estate.
Twice, the Eagles defensive line turned the frustrated Trojans back inside their own five yard line, keeping Portage off the scoreboard until the clock wore down.
Head Coach Geoff Zilkalns says watching the team develop over the past few months has been very satisfying.
“Sure didn’t see this coming at the start of the year,” said Eagles head coach Geoff Zilkalns. “It turned out better than you could ever dream in 67 years of football. It’s the first time we’ve ever gone undefeated, no matter how many games we’ve played. Everybody contributed. It was such a great team win, we had so many different people step up at different times — it’s a cliche, but we could always find something that worked if we kept looking and probing.”
Last week Zilkalns commented on the team’s placement in the ‘A’ Andy Currie Division of the WHSFL which he says has always felt like the right fit for DHS, despite some of the long distances travelled to play rural Manitoba teams.
“There were some mathematical formulas that directed us towards playing in the ‘AA’ league this year, but I don’t feel year-in, year-out we belong there. We’re placed in the ‘A’ division at our request. It did surprise us how well we’ve played. I think the untold story is this group of kids bonding and how much they took from last year’s semi-final and the bitterness over how it ended.”
Eagles coach Neil McLeod says he’s been working with some of the players since age 12 in the Falcons junior football program, the first graduates of which are now senior members of the Eagles squad.
“Last year was the first year we had kids who had done a year of Falcons and four years of high school football — they’re in their sixth year of playing organized football,” said McLeod. “It really takes three years, from a student athlete’s perspective — a year to understand the lingo and vernacular, another year to understand what’s going on and by year three you can start diagnosing plays more. After their Grade 9 year the game is slowing down for them, which allows them to play with a lot more confidence. A guy like Gunnar Anderson, I’ve known him since he was a kid — he knows what I’m thinking and he knows my expectations and it just makes it so much easier to coach.”