Rick StiebelThe Chronicle
Coming off of two straight undefeated seasons, the Ladysmith Steelers junior bantam team will face a much tougher challenge this year.
This season marks the team’s first as a member of the Vancouver Island Community Football Association.
The Steelers now play in a more competitive Football Canada-recognized league that includes more teams, with three from Nanaimo, two from Victoria as well as teams from Campbell River, Comox, Oceanside and Cowichan.
The junior bantam team is made up of players 12 to 14 years of age, while the peewee squad consists of players nine to 11 years of age. The Steelers opened on the road on Saturday against the Victoria Renegades, with the junior bantam Steelers losing 52-16 and the peewee team falling 44-0.
Jeff Pinckney, in his third year as head coach of the Steelers junior bantam and peewee teams, said the new league is definitely more challenging.
Both teams will play nine games in a 10-week schedule that includes a bye, with the first home game Saturday against the Campbell River Eagles at Forrest Field.
Pinkney, who also serves as vice-president of VICFA, said the increase in teams will be more challenging for the junior bantam team to duplicate past success.
“Fortunately, a few players on the bantam team have been together since they were eight, so we have a solid core, including a couple of Vancouver island all stars,” he said. “When we started three years ago we had 16 kids, and now we have 45.”
He also lauded the efforts of Ashford Slowley, the defensive coach for the peewees and junior bantams.
“I couldn’t do it without him,” Pinckney said.
Pinckney is pleased the team will be acknowledging the work of former coach Demetrious Bourdemous, who passed away this winter, with the installation of a bench in his honour at Forrest Field.
“Coach B, as everyone called him, was my high school coach,” Pinckney noted. “He was a huge influence on the way I coach.”
For more information on the team or registration, check out the Facebook page at VICFA Ladysmith Steelers, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We’re always looking for more kids,” Pinckney added.