Mentor meets protege in wild card
W.J. Mouat to face former coach’s new football team, Notre Dame Jugglers
Denis Kelly, the W.J. Mouat Hawks and the high school football playoffs can still go together, although not as much to the Hawks’ liking anymore.
The Hawks open the Subway Bowl post-season with a wild card game Friday at Burnaby Lake (7:30 p.m.). Kelly will be on the field, but running the Notre Dame Jugglers’ sideline.
Kelly helped start W.J. Mouat’s program in 1987 and in 28 seasons as their head coach guided the Abbotsford-based squad to nine triple-A finals, including wins in 1992, 2002 and 2005.
He left W.J. Mouat in the summer before the 2015 season for an associate offensive coordinator’s job with the SFU Clan. He took over at Notre Dame last season, following a stint on the St. Thomas More Knights staff.
He faced off with W.J. Mouat two seasons ago as STM’s offensive coordinator, but this is a different animal, what with Kelly in charge and playoff advancement on the line. East Vancouver’s Notre Dame (5-2) finished second in the Western Conference and played a tougher schedule, making them the favourites against W.J. Mouat (7-1), who took second in the Pacific Conference.
“Is it weird? Yeah, it’s weird,” Hawks coach Travis Bell said. “Our players would know of him and especially our Grade 12s. I reference him all the time. I talk about the culture he instilled here, about the traditions that he started that they are a part of.”
Bell played at W.J. Mouat. He was a provincial all-star defensive back in 2004. Much of what he learned in football he learned from Kelly.
Kelly is regarded as the high school ranks’ preeminent offensive mind, someone who Bell said “typically comes up with a whole new game plan every week … he’s obviously very creative.”
Kelly also happens to have high-end talents at the skill spots at Notre Dame, led by quarterback Will Clarke, the Western Conference’s offensive most valuable player, and running back Teon Alexander-Amour, who was picked to the conference’s all-star team.
Alexander-Amour was second in triple-A in rushing in the regular season with 1,057 yards, including 11 touchdowns. Clarke ran for nine touchdowns as part of his 561 yards on the ground. He also passed for 935 yards, with 11 touchdown tosses to just three interceptions.
“You can expect anything,” Bell said.
Kelly tried to play down the idea that he might be breaking into his vast array of gadget plays on offence.
“As you go along, the thing you realize is that it comes down to blocking and tackling,” said Kelly, a quarterback at SFU in his playing days who was an assistant coach at Notre Dame before signing on with W.J. Mouat nearly three decades ago. “If you don’t block and tackle, it doesn’t matter what you have in your game plan.”
Notre Dame also had linebacker Cameron Mah and defensive back Jerrell Cummings picked to the Western all-star side. W.J. Mouat had five players picked to the Pacific team: offensive lineman Connor Brinson, receiver Keenan Baker, running back Nathan Hausermann, defensive lineman Ethan Erickson and linebacker Ebiye Okoko-Chomseng.
The winner between the Jugglers and Hawks will meet Saturday’s winner between Port Coquitlam’s Terry Fox Ravens (5-2) and North Vancouver’s Carson Graham Eagles (2-5) in next weekend’s quarter-finals.
Denis Kelly spent 28 years at W.J. Mouat but now coaches Notre Dame, who face his old team in a triple-A wild card game.