The Noah Lank Fan Club turned out in full force to watch the Prince George Kodiaks play in Saturday’s historic home-opening junior football game at Masich Place Stadium.
The Lank clan got there early to stake out their section of the stands closest to the field to cheer on their favourite Kodiak and that was smart planning because by the time the game against the Kamloops Broncos started the place was packed.
Lank’s father Jason was a proud papa, especially when his rookie son, a wide receiver, hauled in a Liam Oczkowski pass for a 29-yard gain in the second quarter.
“I’m super-excited, it’s fantastic to see all the boys out there having fun and playing great on a beautiful night for football,” said Jason Lank. “The team is only getting better and I’m looking forward to the rest of the season. We’ve got a lot of support here. We love having Noah here, it’s awesome to have him home for a little while, at least.”
Lorraine Guillet, whose daughter Justine is dating Lank, is not familiar with football rules. She’s been following his progress in high school games when he was at Duchess Park and has been watching CFL games on TV to get a better understand of the game. Feeling the energy from Saturday’s crowd, it won’t take long for her to become a diehard football fan.
“It’s a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to learning about football,” she said. “The high school season was a crash course and I’m trying to remember all of it. I’m trying hard.”
Brian Cornelis was there with his wife Suzanne, Lorraine’s sister, and he was impressed with the action on the field.
“I really like the energy, they’re just giving 100 per cent and it’s exciting,” he said.
Suzanne was down to a whisper by halftime after stretching her vocal chords to the limit.
“I lost my voice in the first five minutes,” she said.
Lynn Richards watched the webcast of the Kodiaks’ first game two weeks ago and could see considerable progress after seeing the first half Saturday. Keanu Brown’s 49-yard touchdown run in the first quarter brought probably the loudest roar ever out of a grandstand audience at Masich and the place went nuts again late in the first half when former Duchess Park Condor Andrew Johnson’s short run into the end zone added to the Kodiaks’ total.
“Actually it’s very exciting, I’m glad they got the touchdowns because the last game was a little one-sided,” said Richards.
Ryan Gallo, a former D.P. Todd Trojans, played in the B.C. Football Conference for the Chilliwack (now known as the Valley) Huskers after he graduated high school and he was impressed with what he saw Saturday, sitting in the stands with his wife Lyndsay.
“This is going to make football huge in Prince George and hopefully it just continues to grow,” said Gallo. “The production value the Kodiaks put on is amazing. If we had this when I was playing it would have meant everything to me as a player.”
The Kodiaks are the youngest team in the B.C. Football Conference, with the bulk of the players one or two years removed from high school football. Off to an 0-2 start, they’ll try for their first win Saturday in Chilliwack against the Valley Huskers, the team that beat them 31-5 on opening day in Chilliwack two weeks ago.
Keon Raymond, the Kodiaks’ head coach and director of football operations, knows his team will have to be much better at minimizing its mistakes to win against teams that stocked with junior football veterans. Players 18-22 are eligible to play at the junior level and this season, but this season, because of the pandemic that wiped out the 2020 season and reduced the league schedule last year to eight games for each team, the age limit has been extended a year to allow 23-year-olds.
Raymond was impressed with the city’s response to Saturday’s game and how enthusiastic fans are to welcoming a new team on the sports scene.
“This is fantastic, to see the stands packed like it was, the chants and all those things, I just hope they come back and they don’t give up on this team,” said Raymond. “What they saw today was a special group of young men fighting. They put up points and they’re going to be OK.
“I credit our organization for putting together such a tremendous atmosphere and making sure the fans enjoyed it. We just got to make sure we do our job and come away with some victories.”
The Kodiaks return home to face the Huskers on Saturday, Aug. 20.
“If Game 1 is any indication, I haven’t seen a crowd like that in a long time – two hours before the game a lot of people were in the stands then,” said BCFC president Tyler McLaren. “I think this is going to be an awesome football town and can’t wait, I’m stoked for the future.”