My time with the Warriors Program
From 1987 through to the fall of 2012 I was directly involved as an assistant coach (87-90), head coach 1991 to 2011, and assistant (2012) with the Grande Prairie Composite High School Warriors football program.
As a team our finest season measured in wins and provincial play was 2004 when we advanced to the Provincial Tier I (4A) championship losing to the St. Francis Browns in McMahon Stadium. Each team has provided stories and players to remember and share.
The team won the league championship in 89, 92, 95, 97, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2007, and 2011. We competed in the championship game in 91, 94, 98, 2001, 2006, 2008, 2009. Most memorable of the lost championship games would be 2006 as the game was played in a record snowfall of over 21 cm of snow and lost 2-1 with a punt out of the back of the endzone in overtime (Canadian rules that’s a single point).
Over the years as head coach the Warriors received the league’s Most Sportsmanlike Team Award at least 12 times, this was awarded in a vote of the member teams in the league and a source of great focus in our program. Going undefeated and being named the most sportsmanlike team was a stated goal of the team throughout my time as head coach. Hit them hard, help them up give them a pat on the back and get to the huddle, if you get hit hard, get up first, help them up tell them good hit and get back to the huddle.
Three Warriors from my time have been drafted in the CFL – Mitch Sutherland (of the Chuckwagon famous Sutherland family) by the Montreal Alouettes, Todd Seely by the Ottawa Renegades, and Brian Ridgeway by the Montreal Alouettes. Brian is currently (2012) playing with the Alouettes as a linebacker and special teams player.
We have had players go on to play with several junior and university programs.
Warriors have played for:
Acadia, St. Mary’s, Concordia, Ottawa, Regina, and Alberta in the CIS and the Edmonton Wildcats, Edmonton Huskies, Saskatoon Hilltops, Calgary Colts, Kamloops Broncos, Okanagan Sun, Chilliwack Huskers, Victoria Rebels, Vancouver Trojans, and Vancouver Island Raiders in Canadian Junior Football.
The goal for me…
The goal for me has never had the focus of getting players to the pros or to junior or university, that’s great and we are happy to help if that’s where they want to go – in many respects that’s very much a side benefit that comes to the players through their dedication and focus. It’s hard to go to the next level when no matter what choice you make it means you have to leave home, a problem not faced by players in the greater Edmonton and Calgary areas for example.
The goal of the football program was to do the best job of coaching football players while striving to develop young men who could go on to be great husbands, fathers, employers and employees, people who could give back to the community and be trusted to do their best. For sure some have struggled in school and in life but that was the goal, it was shared many times a season and if there is one thing that brings a smile quicker than any other it’s the wedding invites, the baby announcements and those times when you are walking down the mall and run into a former player with one or two of his children and his wife and that round of introductions…that’s when it’s all worthwhile.
My thanks to those Warriors and best wishes to all as they pursue their path.
Warriors who have left us too soon:
I have been blessed in my personal family with no unexpected tragedy or accident. In my life as a football coach I have had occasion to experience sadness at the sudden loss of life on two occasions involving players (one former player and four current players) while they were still playing football. I hold the memories of those young men in my heart. The memory of the outpouring of support from the community and toward the families in each instance reminds me that there is strength in numbers, and the football community and community at large is so very supportive and compassionate.
For what I might suggest was all the wrong reasons in so many ways and so inspirational in other ways the Warriors football program and the community of Grande Prairie drew national attention when five young men from our team were involved in a vehicle accident that resulted in the death of four and serious injuries to the fifth player. While charges were laid on the driver of the other vehicle and have yet to be completed that’s not the subject for here – the lives of all 6 boys and the families involved have been changed for life. It is a serious reminder that we do not get to pick the consequences of our choices.
Grade 11 Warriors Matt Deller and Vince Stover and Grade 10 Warriors Walter Borden-Wilkins and Tanner Hildebrand were killed in the accident, Grade 11 receiver Zach Judd survived the accident (after being in a coma for 10 days) and continues his recovery.
Each young man had much to offer, Vince and Matt were in the IB program, Walter and Tanner had been in high school for a little over 6 weeks. They are missed by classmates, teammates, friends and family. Great young Warriors and we’ll always be honored to fight on in our own lives with the memory of our association with them helping us in that fight.
On September 1st 2004 as we were wrapping up a day of practice a phone call came that something had gone wrong at the Okanagan Sun Junior football team practice with former Warrior star and Team Alberta national champion Jeff Halvorson. For me it was always watching Jeff after he scored, invariably all the way through high school andhis junior career he turned and flipped the ball to the referee clear in the knowledge he had every intention of getting back to the endzone soon. Jeff…exceptionally gifted, tragically left us far too soon.
When Jeff was graduating from high school I created a highlight video for some colleges and junior programs. He was a great track athlete (still holds the record at the 200m at the provincial level at 21.6) and simply an amazing athlete as you’ll see in the video.
Jeff Halvorson April 18, 1983 – Sept 1, 2004
Warriors Runningback and Captain 1998 – 2000
MPFL MVP 1999 (I’ve always been amazed he didn’t repeat in 2000)
Team Alberta – National Champion 2001
Canadian Junior Football All-Canadian 2003
Two Time Provincial Track and Field Champion in the 100 and 200
Jeff emulated characteristics of honor, integrity, courage, poise and charity at every turn in his life. His teammates at every level respected his talent and loved the way he treated them and carried himself. He always had time for every teammate. Never one to laud his own accomplishments he understood the value of team better than most young “stars” as he was always quick to celebrate the achievements of his teammates and in almost every instance when he personally crossed the goal line simply flipped the official the ball quietly confident he’d be back again soon. He loved the game, hoped to enter the CFL draft from Jr. football and absolutely adored his little daughter and wife.
A great friend, a great teammate, a loving husband, and a loving father…..all the things that really matter.
A Warrior for All Time….thanks for the memories Jeff!