Sylvan Lake Lions bantam football team marked the end of another season with a year-end banquet and awards night at Lions Club Hall last Wednesday night.
Players, coaches, parents and team staff enjoyed dinner together, before several presentations were made and awards presented.
All players were presented a team photo by coaches, and viewed a season highlight reel before head coach John Kriekle presented the team’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) award to Justin Fedun – one of the hardest working players he’s ever coached.
“(Fedun) truly earned this award with his work ethic,” said Kriekle. “His attitude made him as successful as any of the MVPs I’ve ever coached.”
Fedun was presented with a helmet bearing stickers representing his season achievements – 17 touchdowns among them.
Line coach Vic Sloboda said this season was his most rewarding during his time as a Lions coach. He lamented the fact that only a limited number of awards could be presented, and wished the team’s Most Dedicated Player award in particular could be given to all 35 Lions.
It was presented to Donnie Hoover, whom Sloboda “loved coaching”.
“(Hoover) did a fantastic job,” he said. “He was dedicated to the team, he was dedicated to practice, and he was dedicated to playing football.
“He became a really solid young man.”
Offensive co-ordinator Matt Merkley presented the team’s Most Improved Player award to Rylan Gyori, who received it after about 10 players were considered by coaches to be worthy recipients.
“I saw (Gyori) come in, and he was eager to play,” said Merkley. “He wanted to learn, and he did pretty good, and then throughout the year, I saw him just get so much better and just bring so much to the team.”
Merkley then presented the team’s Most Versatile Player award to a player the team could “call on over and over again without having any questions asked”.
It went to Calvin Burton.
“He knew everything he had to do,” said Merkley.
Defensive co-ordinator Dave Berg presented the team’s Heart of a Lion award to Burkley Theriault, for showing “characters and traits that really exemplify what being a good football player is all about”.
“He happened to make the big plays, and he was courageous,” said Berg. “He was determined, he was conscientious, and he showed the heart of what it means to be a true Lion.”
Berg then presented Rookie of the Year to Caleb Johnson, who he felt played like a “seasoned veteran” throughout the season.
Johnson’s football intelligence played a major role in him being selected to receive the award, according to Berg.
“He would see the field and what was going on, and understand what needed to be done,” he said.
Defensive Lineman of the Year, presented by Sloboda, went to Trent Tarling, who often showed leadership by running drills in the absence of coaches.
“The defensive line have to be aggressive, and they’ve got to be strong and passionate about getting in the back field, and causing problems to disrupt any play that goes that way,” said Sloboda. “(Tarling) had great success in doing that for us this year.”
Sloboda then presented Offensive Lineman of the Year to Ethan West, for his role in a position that often goes overlooked.
“He was tenacious, he loves the game, and he shows himself to be incredibly coachable,” said Sloboda. “It is an absolute thrill to coach him, and to know that he’s coming back next year.”
Defensive MVP went to Rayden Thomas, who was one of several players initially considered for the award.
Thomas’ strong work ethic and leadership made him an ideal candidate, according to Berg.
“I had a great defense this year, and there were a lot of guys that really stepped up,” he said. “A lot of guys exceeded expectations, but when I think about (Thomas), there are a number of words that come to mind that describe him: passion, courage.”
Merkley presented Offensive MVP to Michael Smyth – a player who had the ability to organize the offence in coaches’ absence.
“He stepped up to the plate in a huge way,” said Merkley. “This was a guy I could count on, and he held his offensive squad to such high standards.”
The Lions had extra reason to celebrate at the banquet, when two surprise announcements were made.
Manager Diana Zenert told those in attendance that Bill Harnett, a parent and volunteer, was donating brand new practice jerseys to the team.
“For as long as I can remember, the Lions have been using old hockey jerseys that were donated to us, and we are immensely grateful for that,” she said. “It feels nice to finally get into some football jerseys and have our own.”
The second surprise announcement revealed that Sylvan Lake and District Lions Club would be purchasing new game jerseys for the team.
Klaas Van Veller of the Lions club presented coaches with a cheque for the amount required.
“We’ve used the same jerseys for the past six years, and they were starting to show their wear and tear,” said Zenert.
Everyone involved with the team was very grateful for both donations, she added.
Parents, volunteers and team managers were thanked for their commitment to the team, which will now take a break before resuming training in spring.
“We’ve got such good parents and volunteers, it’s just fantastic,” said Berg. “We appreciate that so much.”