Thunder start season as road warriors
The Blessed Trinity Thunder senior football team’s journey back to the Niagara Catholic Athletic Association championship game will involve a lot of disruption.
With the Grimsby high school’s artificial turf field still under construction, the Thunder, which lost 34-14 to Notre Dame in last season’s championship game, is practising on a soccer field in front of the Grimsby Peach King Centre and will open the season on the road or at neutral sites such as Kiwanis Field.
“We have been told that we could hopefully expect to get on the field sometime in October so it’s close. It would be nice if we could get a home game towards the end of the season or maybe a playoff game,” Thunder head coach Sean Jones said. “We are not assuming anything but we hope to be playing in the playoffs. But right now we are road warriors.”
Practising on a smaller field isn’t great but there’s nothing that can be done.
“Timing is also an issue. We have our late bus that comes every day and we have always had to be off the field by 4:15 for that. That sometimes feels like a rush and having to make our way over here and back again is pinching us even more for time,” he said. “We have to be more efficient in what we do.”
The team made the decision to start practices right away wearing pads.
“I feel we get a better indication of what we are looking at when the guys are in pads. Sometimes they look fantastic out of pads and then you put them in pads and things change.”
Jones describes his team as young, eager, athletic and bolstered by some returning veterans.
“There are guys who came really close last year to a championship and our hope and expectation is to at least get back to there this year.”
Blessed Trinity has several Grade 12 players who are new to football.
“They are athletic kids but inexperienced so it is an interesting mix.”
There are about six returning 12B players and close to 20 Grade 12 athletes, although, several are of the aforementioned inexperienced nature.
“They have played other sports but they don’t have too much football time under their belts. It’s great to have athletes because you can work with athletes but there is a lot of learning that needs to happen,” Jones said. “It is going to have to happen very fast.”
Thankfully, the team has excellent numbers to start the season. Close to 60 players signed up and there are more than 40 Grade 11, 12 and 12B players on the field.
One of the key returning players is Wyatt Bezuyen.
“Wyatt has played almost everything here. He is a 12B kid, he is our long snapper, he played linebacker last year, he’s played some O line, he has played halfback and I think he played almost half the positions on defence last year,” he said. “He is the kind of kid who if we asked him to run for prime minister, he would. He knows already that he might have to be on the offensive line and I don’t think that would be his first choice but he will do it.”
Bezuyen is the kind of player teams can’t win without them.
“He is a coach’s dream as far as his willingness to do whatever it takes not even to win but to help the team be successful,” Jones said.
The 18-year-old Smithville resident started out as a receiver and halfback in Grade 9. In Grade 11, he was a defensive end and linebacker and last season he suited up at halfback and linebacker.
The 6-foot-4, 210-pounder has no issue with filling whatever role he is needed in on the field.
“I have always been a team player and I go wherever the coaches need me.”
As a 12B player, he knows he will need to do even more for the team in 2023.
“I have to motivate these new kids and try to make everyone be the best (versions) of themselves. We need to get these Grade 9s ready for the next season,” he said.
Patience will be required.
“A bunch of the guys haven’t played football so you just have to work with him.”
The 2022 league all-star has high hopes for the team.
“It looks like we have a quick but a not too big team and I think we will do well this year. We just have to put in the work. The practices are short now so we are trying to time crunch.”
Losing in last year’s championship game has given Bezuyen and the other returning players some added motivation.
“That was tough to see but we are ready to go back and win it this year,” he said. “I haven’t won a high school championship yet and we were so close last year. The push is on this year.”