CONDORS FOOTBALL FLIES AGAIN:

The Prince George Citizen - - Front Page - TED CLARKE Staff Re­porter [email protected]­i­t­i­zen.ca

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.

CITIZEN PHOTO BY JAMES DOYLE

Duchess Park Condors player Noah Lank runs the ball while evad­ing a tackle from Col­lege Heights Cougars de­fender Bray­den Adams at Ma­sich Place Sta­dium.

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