CONDORS FOOTBALL FLIES AGAIN:
The Duchess Park Condors are rediscovering their roots on the Prince George high school football field.
Recovering from near-extinction a couple years ago and the total collapse of the senior team program following the death of head coach Matt Pearce, the Condors junior varsity team is dominating the local junior varsity scene, raising hopes Duchess Park will return to double-A varsity senior football by next season.
Heading into Wednesday’s game against the Kelly Road Roadrunners, the Condors were a perfect 2-0 after convincing wins over the Prince George Polars (42-0 on Oct. 2) and the College Heights Cougars (33-14 on Oct. 9).
The Condors were a double-A varsity powerhouse with Pearce calling the shots as head coach. They won back-to-back PG Bowl titles in 2013 and 2014, then lost to PGSS in the 2015 final. In 2016, eight months after Pearce’s death, the Condors captured the Northern Conference title again. But in 2017, down to just a dozen players, the senior team folded after just one game.
The junior Condors have followed a similar roller-coaster path. They won all 18 games they played in the first three seasons of the junior varsity league, from 2013-15, but the wheels fell off in 2016, the year Pearce died. They had just one win over the next three seasons and defaulted several games in that time. Last year, with a blend of Grade 11 players new to football, the Condors were limited to exhibition games only. Bit this year, it‚s a much different story.
Junior varsity Condors head coach Steve Porter says the Duchess Park rebuilding project is similar to what happened at Kelly Road a few years ago when senior numbers dropped sharply and the Roadrunners took a year off from the double-A varsity league to retool in 2015. The Kelly Road juniors took their lumps the first couple years but won the North Division title in the third year of the rebuilding.
“Throughout our league the power kind of rises and falls and it depends on the kids too and who happens to be there at the time, so everybody goes through their peaks and valleys, numbers-wise,” said Porter. “Losing Matt changed definitely quite a bit of stuff and the profile of the sport in the school changed a little bit and it became less popular. Not having somebody in the school (to recruit players) always has a big impact and I wasn’t working (at Duchess Park), so you can’t go chase kids down.”
Porter was still coaching the Kelly Road junior team when he began teaching at Duchess three years ago. Now, as an in-house recruiter, he says it’s been easier to convince students new to football to try it out for the Condors and the roster has swelled to 23 players, up from 19 players in 2018.
The junior Condors started the exhibition season with wins over College Heights and Westsyde of Kamloops, then went to Mission on Sept. 28 to play the triple-A Roadrunners, where the Condors lost 22-12.
Duchess Park Condors player Noah Lank runs the ball while evading a tackle from College Heights Cougars defender Brayden Adams at Masich Place Stadium.