Last season was not one of the memorable ones for the Kelly Road Roadrunners double-A varsity football team.
It was a rebuilding year for Ryan Bellamy's bunch and they took their lumps, finishing last out of four in the Northern Conference with a 1-3 record.
It was an entirely different story for the Kelly Road junior varsity squad.
They won three of their four regular-season games, beat their crosstown-rival College Heights Cougars in the junior varsity North Division semifinals and crushed the previously undefeated D.P. Todd Trojans 36-6 to qualify for the provincial junior quarterfinal.
Their season ended with a lopsided loss the following week in Vernon but, win or lose, that playoff experience should serve the Roadrunners well now that they're suiting up for the senior team.
"We have roughly 30 guys returning who either played on our varsity team or our junior varsity team that won the city (championship) last year," said Bellamy. "The team looks good this year. We're pretty deep, well-rounded. We have a good mix of players and we should be a strong squad. I imagine we'll be one of the top two teams."
Josiah Harder is back as the Roadrunners quarterback and Curtis Zavaglia moves up from the junior team to add to their QB depth. Brendan Watt, a Grade 11 linebacker/running back, was picked for Team B.C. as a linebacker and he and Grade 12 running backs Colton Fors and Jordan Parent give the two pivots plenty of options when they want to keep the ball on the ground.
"We're very athletic and we have a good-sized offensive line so that helps for going a long way," said Bellamy, who has Brennan Adrian, Mike Bodner, Ken Newell and Jason Eikum as his assistant coaches.
The Roadrunners begin their double-A varsity schedule today at 4:30 p.m. against the College Heights Cougars on the turf at Masich Place Stadium. This is the first season football games in the city will be played on an all-weather field.
"They're definitely hyped up to get out there on that field," said Bellamy. "They put on secondary markings for the American field and the goalposts are removable so they can move them up and back so they can accommodate for the Canadian and American rules."
The new field at Masich is marked for Canadian rules - 110 yards long and 65 yards wide with end zones 20 yards deep. But B.C. Secondary School Football Association teams play using American rules, which specify fields that are 100 yards long and 53 1/3 yards wide, with 10-yard-deep end zones. The American field is marked in red.
The Roadrunners will play a six-game schedule with three exhibition games. They'll head to Kamloops next weekend to play the South Kamloops Titans, then host Clarence Fulton of Vernon the following Saturday at 5 p.m. at Masich Stadium, part of a high school football doubleheader that wraps up with a Salmon Arm-PGSS game at 7:30 p.m. Kelly Road will play the top-ranked Vernon Panthers on Oct. 6 in Vernon.
The Roadrunners' first scheduled game last week against the D.P. Todd Trojans was postponed due to wildfire smoke.
The Cougars are coming off a 3-1 season which ended in a 31-11 loss in the P.G. Bowl Northern Conference final. Grant Erickson and Brad Paakkonen are back as the Cougars senior team coaches.
Jack Page is head coach of the Trojans, while Pat Bonnet and Brett Morrow will be calling the shots from the sidelines for the Polars.
The Duchess Park Condors won't have sufficient numbers for a double-A varsity team. The Condors pulled out of the league after one game last year and not having a senior team as a destination for the juniors hurt their chances of recruiting enough players for this year. Like many teams in the north, they were affected by smoky conditions the past few weeks which canceled tryouts and also hurt recruiting. The Condors junior varsity team, under coach Craig Briere, will be well-stocked this season.
The Roadrunners and Prince George Polars kicked off the junior varsity season Wednesday afternoon at Masich.
The South Kamloops Titans will travel to Prince George to play the Nechako Valley Vikings of Vanderhoof in an exhibition this Saturday, starting at 7:30 p.m.
PGSS will be in Chilliwack Saturday to play the G.W. Graham Grizzlies.