WESTLOCK – For the first time since 2019, the Westlock Thunderbirds will play under the lights and in front of fans at their Friday Night Lights game this coming week.
The 7 p.m. Sept. 24 exhibition tilt versus Rocky Mountain House at Thunderbird Field at Westlock Elementary School will be the first for the club at home under a nine-on-nine format — Canadian football is normally played 12-aside. Due to COVID-19 there won’t be a pep rally or some of the other pageantry that’s surrounded past Friday Night Lights — as of Sept. 16 fully outdoor events and venues have no capacity restrictions (excluding washrooms), but must maintain two-metres distancing between households or two-close contact for those living alone.
Coach Jon Kramer said they have 16 high school players signed up, plus 22 junior high athletes. Of those, 10 Grade 9s will be able to suit up for the club which brings the roster to 26 — a number Kramer called “comfortable.”
“Every day that we’re out on the field we kind of a view it as a gift and bonus. We’re optimistic that we can make it through the season,” said Kramer Sept. 15. “To have a big game early is really good for us too. For the Grade 12s that stuck through this, Friday Night Lights is always a highlight of the year. Under the lights, in front of a home crowd is an experience they never forget.
“It’s a good feeling after the last couple of years to have things looking up a little bit.”
Although the roster is mainly comprise of local players, Kramer said they have a few from Athabasca, one from Onoway and another from Spruce Grove.
“We don’t have any from Barrhead this year which is a bit of a surprise. Ultimately we’re happy to be able to provide something for the kids because you can tell the desire is there —especially from the younger ages,” said Kramer.
The Thunderbirds did spread their wings over the weekend and played an exhibition game versus a high school club at Foote Field, while the week following Friday Nights Lights they’ll head to Rocky Mountain House. They’re then scheduled to play a six-aside tilt in Camrose Oct. 7, before playing host to them Oct. 16.
“We have a set of exhibition games. There’s a ton of teams around the province that are feeling the pinch as far as numbers go,” said Kramer.