Emerson Kowalchuk breaks a tackle as Brody Gunnlaugson covers his back on his route to the end zone. The atom league is a developmental league where the players learn proper skills they will use when they move up to the Pee Wee Bears. (Photo by Megan Roth)

Emerson Kowalchuk breaks a tackle as Brody Gunnlaugson covers his back on his route to the end zone. The atom league is a developmental league where the players learn proper skills they will use when they move up to the Pee Wee Bears. (Photo by Megan Roth)

Sylvan Lake Tigers defend home turf in first home game

A large crowd of fans and spectators gathered at the football field Sunday afternoon to cheer the Sylvan Lake Atom Tigers on to victory in their first-ever home game.

The Tigers faced off against the Rocky Mountain House Jr. Rebels, in a friendly rivalry skirmish.

The atom football teams play two games every Saturday in Red Deer, and sometimes the teams will set up friendly matches like this one outside of regular play.

Tigers head coach Nathan Geib said he feels it is important for the team to play and defend their home turf.

“It gives them a sense of community and pride to play on their own field,” he said following the game. “Today was the first time we ever played an actual game on our own field, and you could tell how excited the kids were.”

Beyond the feeling of defending their home turf, Geib said it was also important for the kids, who range in age between eight and 10, to see support from their community.

In addition to the crowd that gathered to cheer on the home team, businesses and organizations came out to support the young players. Sobeys donated hot dogs, hamburgers and buns to feed the players on both teams, the 126 RCSCC Red Deer Sea Cadets manned the grill, which was provided by Sunbelt Rentals.

The team also held a bottle drive during the game. Proceeds from the bottle drive and the concession stand will go towards purchasing equipment so more young football players can join in on the fun.

This year, the Tigers had an unprecedented number of players turn out for spring camp in May, and even more come out for the regular season. Unfortunately, due to lack of available equipment, many of those players had to be turned away.

“We only had enough helmets and pads to outfit 30 kids, which is what our roster is this year. We hope to purchase more so that in the future we won’t have to turn kids away. I want to ensure that any kids who wants to play football can,” Geib said.

The Tigers have just a few games left in the season, four regular season games, and one game in Lacombe under the lights on Oct. 28.

Like playing at home, Geib said playing on turf under the lights is important for the kids, and an experience they are excited for.

“They get to play on actual turf, with an announcer, and have that Friday Lights feel, and it’s exciting. It’s also just a great way to end the season.”

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