There are many things you might not know about Robert Bateman Secondary school.
It’s quite difficult to find. Nestled in a suburban neighbourhood in Abbotsford, your average fast-paced Vancouverite may drive in circles before finally reaching their destination (guilty).
Abbotsford is crazy far from the city—maybe not as far as G.W. Graham, but pretty, pretty far. The air carries a constant smell of barnyard animals and hay, yet also has certain freshness to it, as well.
It’s a simpler school with well-mannered kids who seem to really enjoy the natural beauty of the great outdoors. There’s a flannel shirt or two (or twenty) walking the hallways at any given moment.
And if you take a stroll outside to the grassy-green field, the senior boys football team sports a mean mug with a huge chip on their shoulder. Behind all of that grit, though, there’s love, support, and honour for the # 16.
“It means a lot to the team. Isaiah was a big player. It was really bad what happened to him and we’d just like to respect him. It’s like a tribute to him,” said Wolves # 7 Ryan Sztuhar.
Isaiah Peters, a former teammate of Sztuhar’s, injured his neck during a spring camp scrimmage against the G.W. Graham Grizzlies last season. Sadly, he would never return to the football field again.
“He is no longer able to play. They found he had a pre-existing condition within his spinal column, so the guys wanted to do something to show that he was still out here,” said head coach David Mills regarding his team donning 16 on their helmets for Isaiah.
Mills has been coaching since 2010 when the football program first came to life at Robert Bateman. His passion for the game truly shines when mentoring this team.
“They’re just a great group of kids. There’s no egos; I don’t have to babysit them, they show up every day…they’re a good group to spend two hours on an afternoon with,” he said.
Standout players include quarterback Logan McDonald, running back Phoenix Muller, and wide receivers Ryan Sztuhar and Sam Davenport—all of which have dedicated their season to Isaiah.
Last spring camp changed Isaiah’s life forever.
“In Grade 11, before I was injured, I was planning on having a big season,” Isaiah recalled. “I was pumped for spring league and being able to show my worth to the coaches. But then we were playing G.W. Graham…I was playing defensive back when I got injured. I was going in to tackle the running back, but then one of my teammates already made the tackle before I could get there, so I just stopped then out of nowhere I got pushed from behind and went head first into the running back’s chest plate.”
Isaiah didn’t realize it at the time, but that one play came with repercussions that affected him both on-and-off the field.
“My injury has affected my personal life by me being emotionally unstable after the accident. My neck has never been the same since…I’m not allowed to ever play contact sports again and that is hard. But that’s just life—sometimes it’s hard.”
He says since the incident, he’s received endless support.
“My football teammates are some of the best. We all enjoyed each other’s company and laughter,” said Isaiah about his brothers at Bateman.
Though Isaiah hung up his football gear for good, he found faith in another sport.
“I have been practicing basketball 24/7. My goal is to try and get our basketball team to Provincials.”
Isaiah says he also hopes to become an RCMP Officer some day, a dream that he’s had even while he was playing for the Wolves.
It’s always difficult to say goodbye to a teammate, especially in such a heartbreaking circumstance like Isaiah’s. However, the team keep him close by rockin’ the # 16 on their helmet.
And fittingly, each of Isaiah’s teammates said they were most looking forward to duking it out with the Grizzlies in what they called the “week of redemption” during the Friday, October 12th SportsCanada.tv Game of the Week.
“He can’t play football or any physical sport anymore. And that was really rough because we really miss him out on the field… That’s why this is on our helmet—to remember him,” said # 84 Sam Davenport.
The Game of the Week between Robert Bateman and G.W. Graham truly defined Friday Night Lights.
With much back-and-forth play, the game came down to the wire. The Grizzlies got a safety off an errant punt that put them to within just 7 points of the Wolves. Graham’s QB Colby Bessette then drove them down the field, giving Logan Buchwitz a chance to score a TD—which he did.
Being down by just one point, they went for the two-point conversion, but Bateman stuffed them on the one-yard line giving the Wolves the W. It definitely was a battle of attrition, with a final score of 28-27.
Was this game written in the stars for the Wolves or did the # 16 push the team to greater heights than ever before?
“He was such a big impact to our team and it was so horrible what happened,” Sztuhar reiterated. “[He’s our] inspiration.”
How does it feel?
Isaiah says despite all of the praise from the his team , he never imagined he’d be their muse.
“Knowing that my teammates were inspired by me means a lot because I never really saw myself as a person that could inspire others.”
Without even lacing up his cleats, Isaiah is still with the team.
He’s the field at Robert Bateman for practice each week; he’s the locker room hype before every game; he’s the post-game huddle after an epic redemption win against the Grizzlies.
And he’s the heart and soul of the Wolves this season.
“I can’t really choose a specific person that has been more supportive than another,” Isaiah said since his accident. “Everyone was and still is so supportive and has shown unconditional love to me and my family.”
When the Wolves take the field, they carry a little piece of Isaiah with them.
Just this past weekend, the Robert Bateman Wolves were crowned the Eastern Conference champions, too.
“It feels awesome,” said Coach Mills on accomplishing exactly what his boys sought out to do. “We did a great job winning the field position battle…I’m really proud of our boys. Maybe subconsciously [Isaiah] is a part of their motivation. I’m sure it is something they think about in their downtime, or whenever they see the ‘16’ on our helmets. Maybe that does give them an extra boost in crunch time when they need it.”
For every touchdown, punt, pass, and win, the number 16 will always be a part of the not-so-little football family at Robert Bateman Secondary.
“I would like to thank my coaches and teammates.” Isaiah reflected.
“For always making me feel part of the team.”
Written by: Crystal Scuor