The D.W. Poppy Redhawks are not just content on making an appearance in their second go-round at the provincial high school Double-AA championships later this month.
The senior boys squad made the tournament and placed 16th in 2013. The result is not surprising, considering that when the group first got together in Grade 9, only two players had played the game before.
“We were literally years behind many of the schools we were competing against,” said Mike Munsie, who coaches the team alongside Kyle Barry.
“The hard work, dedication and love of the game that they have shown has allowed them to become a successful team despite that barrier.”
The Redhawks booked a return ticket to provincials — the opening round is May 24 at various locations before switching to Abbotsford’s Exhibition Park May 29-31 — after a 24-0 semifinal victory over the Southridge Storm last week (May 8) in the Fraser Valley semifinals.
Matt Theodore — who was named to the Commissioner’s XV at provincials last year — scored a pair of tries in the victory, while Gino Paolella and Nick Vandergoes had one each.
Paolella also picked up his team’s Golden Hammer award for the biggest tackle.
Poppy, which is ranked seventh in the province, plays the fifth-ranked G.W. Graham Grizzlies of Chilliwack in the Fraser Valley final tomorrow (Wednesday).
“Last year’s provincials was a learning experience for both the players and coaches,” said Barry. “The players had a chance to see and play against the elite teams in the province and learned where they needed to get to if they wanted to challenge for top spot.”
The goal this year is at least a top eight finish.
Last year taught the program that depth was essential to compete, especially with injuries.
“It takes more than just the 15 starting players on the field,” Munsie said.
“Last year we did not have a very deep team and really struggled to compete when we had some key injuries (so) our goal this year was to develop all 26 players on the roster and give them all meaningful game time throughout the season.
“Our depth this year has allowed us to rest players at key positions and stay healthy all season long.”