Just like a ferocious Grizzly in the wild, the boys of G.W. Graham endure the elements nearly every time they step out onto the field.
We ventured out to Chilliwack on a cold, fall night. And although the sunset illuminated the sky with the slightly ominous colours of autumn, the Grizzlies seemed poised and ready for the brisk season ahead.
“We want to be competitive and we want to be in the playoffs,” said co-head coach Laurie Smith. “And you know, we’d like to see if we can get back to that same spot. It’s a very good group. The numbers are small, right? That’s a huge issue for us and that’s an issue for a lot of programs.”
Coach says the issue has affected the Junior Varsity level, too, since the Eastern Conference fell to just three teams compared to six previously. Despite the drop in numbers, Smith says the talent is still there and co-head coach Luke Acheson agrees.
“For us, we just try to take the approach where we need to get better every day…take every day as it comes. If we can get 1% better every day, we feel like as a coaching staff that these guys have the ability to get back to where we were last year, if not better,” he said.
With a stacked squad full of young flair, the Grizzlies look tough—just like their mentality.
“That was kind of our motto,” quarterback Colby Bessette said about the “Grizzly Tough” writing embedded on his back plate. “It was ‘Grizzly Tough’, that we can fight with how many players we have, we can compete with anyone. I just think it was good motto and I just want to show people that I can fight along through the game.”
And that motto rings true through another slogan Bessette says the Grizzlies stand by:
“Snap City!” he laughed.
“We’re just going to break their ankles; we’re going to show ‘em what we can do.”
In their conference home opener game against Frank Hurt, the Grizzlies did just that. They pumped the Hornets with a final score of 48-7.
Bessette emphasized how crucial clutch offensive connections are on the field, too. He says his go-to’s include # 11 Jet Thomas and # 1 Ashton Young, as well as # 88 Logan Buchwitz, the sensational LB/SB who was chosen to play for Team Canada last year.
“There [were] only five BC players and I was the only one from Chilliwack,” said Buchwitz. “So that was pretty exciting, as well. It was a great experience. Just bonding, getting to know everyone…different playing styles.”
Buchwitz, who towers over most at 6’4, is a wrecking ball on the field, but an incredibly humble giant off the field. The Grade 10 says he appreciates the quality time with his team—something that has allowed for them to grow even closer than ever. Pair that with the special bond he has with his coaches and it’s easy to see the grit and love these boys have for not only the game, but also each other.
“Coach Luke…he’s always pushing me and making me strive for the best,” Buchwitz said when asked who inspires him the most.
It’s admirable, to say the least, to observe the devotion both Coach Luke and Laurie have for these gritty Grizzlies.
“They’ve been great,” said running back # 3 Jaiden Claassen. “They’re always positive [and] they try to keep us positive.”
Bessette has mad respect for them, too.
“I love the coaches. They push for us hard; they just really care about us, they want us to do good, they really push for us to be good and they make us run a lot, but I know that they care about us and that’s why they do it.”
Coach Laurie started the program at G.W. Graham in 2011, which has grown to what we see today with Coach Luke alongside as the offensive coordinator.
The team made it to the final four last season and even the semis, a phenomenal feat considering the team’s low numbers.
“We started the program the goal was to engage kids, just to get them some connection to school so that they can find success in the classroom as well as on the field. So that’s always been my goal,” Coach Laurie said. “You know, when kids feel like they’re part of something, it gives them a good reason to come school.”
Coach Luke truly enjoys working with young men and “helping them become men”.
“Having them have fun and go make plays, and celebrate diving in mentally to the x’s and o’s in football, how to get better every day and…the smell of the grass, wet feet. All those things.”
The two coaches donned huge smiles as they wrapped up practice, despite the cool breeze and near frozen wind-chill surrounding the field in the mountains at G.W. Graham Secondary.
Coach Luke had a afterthought:
“I don’t know what I could say aside from I wouldn’t want to be a part of any other program. Since we’ve started it up Coach…” he looked at Coach Laurie with a toothy grin.
“…It’s been a heck of a ride.”
Buckle up and follow the G.W. Graham Grizzlies under the Friday Night Lights as they take on the Robert Bateman Wolves in the Game of the Week happening 7:30pm. Stay tuned for our highlights!
Written by: Crystal Scuor