It wasn't the outcome they hoped for, but 10 student-athletes from St. Martin de Porres High School still enjoyed a rare opportunity on Nov. 14, competing in the Calgary high-school football league's Division 2B championship game.
As St. Martin de Porres does not have its own football team, the 10 players were representing northeast Calgary's Bishop McNally High School, who has an athlete-sharing agreement with the Airdrie Catholic school. Every year, a crop of football players from St. Martin de Porres play for the Bishop McNally Timberwolves.
This year, the Timberwolves enjoyed a strong season, which culminated in the Div. 2B championship game earlier this month at Shouldice Athletic Park against the Bishop O'Byrne Bobcats. While they had beaten the Bobcats during the regular season, the Timberwolves couldn't replicate the performance in the city finals, losing 38-7 on a chilly night.
“The game, it was tough,” said St. Martin de Porres student Rhett Melnychuk, a Grade 11 wide receiver. “The cold really affected the boys. We could have done a lot better. But I was just proud to be a part of such a great team and work with such great coaches. The experience of being there was great – we did O Canada, they announced our names. It was a great experience.”
Melnychuk's Timberwolves teammate and classmate Keryan Smith – also a Grade 11 wide receiver – concurred. He acknowledged that Bishop O'Byrne were more mentally sharp and “came to play” in the city finals.
“I’ll give credit where credit is due – they came to play regardless of the weather or any other factors,” he said. “They knew they had lost to us before, so they showed up and got the work done. Their offence was great, their defence was locked in, and they came ready to play.
“It was a tough loss and we didn’t get the outcome we really wanted, but overall it was a great experience that we can use as fuel for next year and upcoming years,” he added. “Honestly, not everyone gets to play in a championship football game.”
The 2022 campaign produced mixed overall results for Bishop McNally. With the 10 players from St. Martin de Porres playing key roles – particularly on the offensive line – the Timberwolves produced a 2-4 regular season record. They then booked their spot in the Div. 2B championship game by beating the St. Mary's Saints 20-6 in the semi-finals.
“Regardless of what happened during the season, it was an amazing honour,” Smith said. “I thank everyone at Bishop McNally for being inviting toward us. It was an amazing season and I can’t complain about anything.”
Melnychuk added a highlight of the 2022 football season was practicing and playing in the snow – adversity he argued helped cement the team's chemistry.
“It really showed how dedicated we were toward winning and going toward a championship – just being there with everyone in the cold,” he said.
The wide receiver added he'd like to thank his teacher and coach Shaun Potvin for consistently driving St. Martin de Porres' football players to daily practices at Bishop McNally after school.