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Kodiaks will be bigger and better in 2024, coach Boreham promises

Junior football season starts July 20 at home against Vancouver Island Raiders
Prince George Kodiaks quarterback Sawyer Thiessen gets chased out of the pocket by defensive lineman Weston Shiels during a spring camp scrimmage May 26 at Masich Place Stadium.

In less than a month, training camp starts for the Prince George Kodiaks and this time around, as they embark upon their third B.C. Football Conference season, they’ve never been more prepared.

Heading into his second season at the helm of the city’s junior football team, head coach Jamie Boreham is feeling confident the fans in Prince George will have a lot more reason to show up for the games to watch a competitive home team at Masich Place Stadium.

The Kodiaks are developing a critical mass of players aged 18-22 who live in the city and are becoming solid citizens while they hone their football talents.

“We’ve done a lot of resurfacing our foundation — got a lot of really good players last year and some of those guys needed a years of experience, a year of working out on the weight room," he said.

“We’re returning over 50 per cent of our players, which is amazing. We don’t have to change anything, so we can continue with what we did last year and that continuity and consistency from year to year will help the guys understand their jobs better. After an off-season in the weight room, our guys are 15 pounds heavier and 40 pounds stronger."

Of the roster of about 80 players expected this season, close to half live year-round in Prince George, where they attend post-secondary school at UNBC or CNC, or they’re holding down full-time jobs in the city.

Twenty-three players on the roster are Prince George high school football graduates. Boreham said only a handful are coming out of this year’s graduating class but he expects there will be eight or 10 local products each year in successive years who want to keep playing football once their high school days are done.

The Kodiaks announced earlier this week they’ve signed quarterback Sawyer Thiessen – who backed up highly-touted potential CFL draft pick Jackson Tachinski while playing in three U SPORTS games last year with the University of Manitoba Bisons.

Thiessen, 21, a six-foot-two, 200-pound native of Mitchell, Man., passed for 288 yards and one touchdown with an efficiency rating of 47.8 per cent. He brings the type of experience at pivot the Kodiaks have lacked in their previous two seasons. Although he didn’t play much, he practiced daily against a university-level defence.

“He was the scout quarterback against Manitoba’s defence, which is was good, so playing against that speed, he has good decision-making skills,” said Boreham. “He has more competitive reps than our guys here right now and that’s part of what we were missing.”

Thiessen will have a bunch of big bodies to protect him in the pocket with the lineup Boreham has assembled to play on the offensive line. Kemper Wells, a recruit from Cardston, Alta., tips the scales at close to 400 pounds. Local product Connor Sherlock stands six-foot-three and weighs 315 pounds and he also will be tough to knock off his assignments.

“We’ll rely on Sawyer and O-line has to be better,” said Boreham. “Our D-line is a whole lot bigger and that’s a nice thing. We have enough depth on the D-line to rotate two groups.”

Four Brits who played NFL rules last year in England for Filton Pride have landed in Prince George to play Kodiaks football this season. J.J. Aboagye, a big athletic defensive lineman transferred from the Westshore Rebels and brought with him receiver Jordan Brady-Williams, linebacker Gabe Lizio and defensive back Jerome Darko.

Boreham said the four Europeans will help run the Kodiaks’ youth programs this spring and summer.

Backed by speedy locals Aidan Lewis, Armandeep Bansal and six-foot-seven Kayle Cowley, the Kodiaks have depth at receiver with 12 guys Boreham says could step in and play effectively.

The linebacking corps and secondary are also in good hands with the likes of Prince George high school products Nicholas Krawczyk and Jackson Kolody and Jason Kragt of Hixon, back for his third BCFC season.

Teegan Morin of Calgary and Airdrie, Alta., product Colter Cannon will lead the defensive backs as a returning team captain and team MVP.

The Kodiaks were heavily weighted last year with 18-year-old players and they’re a slightly older team now with a more even distribution of 19, 20, 21-year-olds.

“We have the potential to almost bring back everybody (in 2025) and if we do a really good job as a coaching staff and as a group of players they’re going to love what happens here,” said Boreham. “That makes it tougher to leave when you feel you have something special.”

One of the higher-profile additions to the Kodiaks this year is offensive coordinator Chris Szarka, a veteran of 13 seasons in the CFL as a fullback with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. He and Boreham celebrated a Grey Cup win with the Riders in 2007. Szarka, 49, served one term as a Regina city councilor from 2009-12.

The Kodiaks are coming off a 2-8 season and Boreham aims to improve on that right away.

“With the coaches’ improvement and the players’ improvement, we’re going to be a good team we’ll be tough to beat,” he said.

“Then you bring our fans. If we’re in a game, our fans will make the difference. They are loud, and us putting the visiting team on the stands sideline is a huge advantage for us. They can’t hear anything on that sideline. With what we’ve done and the improvement we’ve made with the people and the process we’re going to give them a whole lot to cheer.”

The Kodiaks started their indoor workouts in January and have been on the field twice a week at their Hart facility and at PGSS field since the start of May.

Training camp begins July 5 and the Kodiaks will do two and maybe three on-field workouts during weekends leading up to the season-opening game July 20 at home against the Vancouver Island Raiders.