Months of hard work, dedication, fundraising and — of course — practice, have all culminated in the Springfield Sabres playing the program’s first high school football game in Oakbank, Man.
“We found enough kids and enough parents who didn’t give up easily,” said head coach Tom Walls, who is a teacher at Churchill High School in Winnipeg and commutes every day to and from Oakbank. “And when you find kids and parents who won’t give up easily, you really can create a football program.”
Walls says he helped launch the youth football program the Sunrise Coyotes in the town of 4,600 six years ago, and the growth of that program meant another pathway for football was needed.
“And we found a sympathetic mind here at the high school in principal Kevin Doell,” he said, referring the administrator at Springfield Collegiate. “And we started putting things together, and they fell together with some great support from the community.”
The Sabres’ roster features 33 players, 20 of whom have a background in football.
“Well, we’ve got a lot of people brand new to football, but they’ve really picked it up fast,” said quarterback Tommy Walls, who is also the head coach’s son. “We’re really developing as a team.”
“We’ve been practicing since spring,” said Meadow Bjorklund, the team’s lone female player. “We’ve done weight training all summer, and we’ve really progressed as a team.”
The Sabres will host the Fort Frances Muskies in their opening game, and Bjorklund says she expects there will be some mistakes, but added it should be a positive night.
“I think if people take a second to look around, they’ll see how far we actually came as a team,” she said. “We’ve got amazing jerseys, we’ve got amazing coaches and players. I think, coming together for this first game is going to be an experience no one will forget.”