by Phil Ambroziak

Head coach Sam Dawson has been valiantly leading the charge all season long as the Carpenter High School football Spartans continue to pursue their first win of the 2016 season.

He hasn’t been calling the shots all by himself, however. In addition to fellow coach Chris Brownrigg and others who find themselves on the sidelines or assisting during practice sessions, two other members of the coaching staff bring with them a wealth of experience.

“I started with the team four seasons ago as a line coach,” explained Spartans defensive coach Mike Connolly. “That was the year we made it to the provincial finals and, right off the bat, I fell in love with running the defensive side. This season, our defensive players are still very young. Most of them are in Grade 10, while the players on the opposing teams have mainly been Grade 12s. It’s been tough, but we’re sure to have better days to come where we’ll earn some Ws and put a few more points in the win column.”

In addition to high school football, Connolly – who grew up in the Barrie, ON area – also played for the Huronia Stallions Football Club.

“I started playing the sport when I was in Grade 6,” he said. “I had some great coaches back then and really came to love the sport. It’s been my passion ever since.”

Connolly went on to say many of the teams CHS competes against in the Saskatchewan High Schools Athletic Association’s (SHSAA) Nine-Man League have had a chance to hone their skills since a young age thanks to similar community-based football programs. He added, if something like this was offered locally, it could greatly benefit future Spartans squads.

“There was a minor football program here in the past and there’s also been talk about resurrecting it, but we lost all our smaller sized equipment in last year’s shed fire,” Connolly noted. “So, this year, we’ve placed all of our focus on the high school program.”

Meanwhile, John Lawson returned to the Spartans bench this fall after a long hiatus.

“I helped coach the Spartans a long time ago,” Lawson said. “Just as I am now, I worked with the offensive line, but I stopped when the program temporarily shut down a while back. When football was eventually reintroduced, they had enough coaches so I didn’t come back. This year, however, a few of the coaches had left, so I decided I would help out again.”

Lawson was a wide receiver in high school. When he first arrived in Meadow Lake in 1971, he officiated both basketball and football. Then, through a friend, the opportunity arose to help out as a coach.

“My goal is to just be able to help share the knowledge and experience I have with the players to help them improve individually and as a team,” he said.

The CHS Spartans remain winless this season, their latest defeat coming at the hands of the Delisle squad by a score of 42-22 during an away game Oct. 11. The game was originally scheduled for Oct. 6, but was postponed because of wintry weather and poor driving conditions.

“Tuesday wasn’t much better,” Dawson said. “It was certainly the coldest game I’ve been to during my time with the team. The field was clear, but the sidelines were dull of snow and it was very cold.”

This Friday, the Spartans host John Paul II Collegiate from North Battleford in the team’s final home game of the season. Conference playdowns are scheduled for Sept. 22 to see if CHS will qualify for provincials.