Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Mustangs on a Bus

Josh Davis

It was Friday, September 11th, the weather was sunny and gorgeous, and the Pincher Creek Senior Mustangs were sitting on a bus. They were headed to Cochrane, to play the Bobcats in their fourth exhibition game of the season. The players had a good week of practice, and felt prepared for the coming game.

They were remarkably well behaved. In fact, I dare say they were as well behaved as high-testosterone teenage boys locked into tight quarters can be. Several of the coaches informed me this was usually a sign of a good game to come; personally, I suspected they may have been on their best behaviour for the intrepid reporter among them.

Head Coach Wayne Alexander took the time to explain the strengths and weaknesses of his team to me, and even shared with me some of his plays. Eager for conversation during the two hour ride, I urged him on, gaining some insight into the life of a Mustang, and the game of football. He talked a bit about the technology he was using to improve the team, including most notably a set of headsets. He spoke on the improving communication between players and coaches within the Mustangs. Another subject discussed was the advantage of having a larger team, since rotation of players is an important technique for preventing fatigue.

That's Coach Alexander lower left ducking the photo-op
The Mustangs found great success in Cochrane, sticking to the game plan highlighted before the game and winning by 15 points (click here for that story). Following the game I took the opportunity on the bus ride back to talk with the triumphant team.
Coach Alexander was impressed with his team. “We were up three touchdowns to one, and they score. And they were starting to control things; they were starting to pick on our defensive backs. But the neat thing was we bent, but we didn’t break. Instead we got our act together, and we pushed in another one. To me that was really important to us taking control of the game when we could have let it go. That’s the difference between this team and some of the teams in the past.”

Mustangs in blue and white crushing it in Cochrane
“You can learn a lot about things by the demeanour of the team. Winning is so much more fun than losing,” Wayne said. “Now we know what we need to do, which is basically just play smart, and fix up those little boo-boos that we had. There was one recurring boo-boo that we had today, just one, in the first touchdown they had against us. That was just a little hair in a couple ways, so we’ll get that under control.”

Pep talk before game in Cochrane
Wayne also commented on the feeling he got from the spectators in Cochrane. “There was a nice feeling on the field, and a nice crowd. Some places where you go it’s not always nice. But that’s why I like to play that team.” He took some time to talk about this season compared to previous season. “To have lost to (Cochrane) the last two years, and have beaten them today means something too. Plus the most games we won last year was two. Now we’re at three already in four games, and we still have five to go. It’s already a better season than what last year was. We’ve already been successful that way.”

Game Day Coordinator Dan Crawford
Then I had a chat with Game Day Coordinator Dan Crawford. One thing he worked on during practice that really came together on game day was communication between players and coaches. “We did really well this week. Everybody understood what everybody wanted. Sometimes it’s hard; it gets to be a time thing, there’s only so much time to get it in. And you’re using hand signals, and sometimes the signals get read wrong. If you hear the wrong thing, or give the wrong signal, or the signal gets read wrong, you’d be amazed at how wrong the play works. But this week it worked quite well. We had good communication between everybody.”

Dan then talked about his hopes for the rest of the Mustang’s season. “I’m excited to see them get better. Each time they’re on the field they get a little bit better, they get more confidence, they know what they’re doing. And they’re having fun doing it. They’re working together as a team, not working as individuals. That’s the coolest part, because twenty years from now they aren’t going to remember that game, but they’re sure going to remember this team.”

“We had a really good Defence. Even though they got those two touchdowns I felt safe with our defence,” said fullback and linebacker Ben Riviere, who has been playing football for six years. “They couldn’t get through. No matter what they were trying it wouldn’t work. They did have some sass, but it wasn’t continuous. I felt confident when we had our offensive streak, but when they did it it just felt like a good play. I’m not taking away anything from them, but I just felt that we really did secure that ball on D.”

Ben Riviere’s personal highlight of the game was his touchdown, the fourth he has made this season. “And big hits,” he added with a laugh. “I do like hitting.” He said hitting was his favourite thing about football. “Soccer didn’t work for me. I got red flagged all the time.” He said that his team found success by focusing and working together. “You’ve got to be a team. That will get us really far this year. And I really like it when I’m not the only one getting touchdowns. That was a highlight actually, Matthew’s kick return touchdown. And it happened right after they got a touchdown. It was a good boost to morale.”

Ben Riviere last season

Tyler Riviere, ben's brother,  said his favourite part of the game is the feeling he gets after winning a game. “I don’t think there’s a better feeling than that.” Tyler was happy with his own performance that day. “On one of the suites the quarterback was trying to get an outside run. I cut him off, tackled him, and took him down behind the line. Everybody had a lot of good plays that game,” he said. He spoke a little bit about having less experienced players on the team. “I think our first practice we had some new guys to the team that just showed up, and had never played football before. With those guys for one practice we almost sacrificed the whole practice and got those guys lots of reps. It was a hard practice, there was a lot of screwing up and redoing. But we gel as a team, I think, and we just kept going at it and going at it, and that helped us a lot.” Tyler was excited for the upcoming season. “I think we’ve got a good chance to go very far, maybe the best that the Mustangs have ever done. Hopefully we get the banner in the gym. That’d be really nice.”

Tyler Riviere last season
Quarterback Kyle Knowlton was happy with the decisions he made about passing and whether to run the ball or not during the game. When asked what his favourite thing about football was he responded: “Contact. I like getting hit. I don’t know why, but I do. It’s fun.” He felt that his team worked together really well. “Last year it was worse. We wouldn’t work together. This year we work together as a team. We don’t get each other down, we actually bring each other up.” He said the Mustangs were pretty strong, but that they still needed to work on hustling in the second half. “We kind of slow down third quarter and fourth quarter. That’s what kind of just about cost us the game this game.”

Kyle Knowlton with the ball in game against Cochrane
“I think that the linemen did a really good job,” said Jaeger Hann, who plays slotback and center for the team. “And then, all of the interceptions really helped us. All of the receivers and running backs were running as hard as they could. We all just gave it our all.” Jaeger thought his mentality was his greatest strength as a player. “I like to think that I never give up.” When asked about his team he said their intensity was their greatest strength. He said that their tackling and passing plays really started to come together in this game. He was happy with his coaches. “They all give 110% for the team, and I find that awesome. They put up with so much with us.” He said that going forward the Mustangs still need to work on their execution of plays. Nonetheless, he was happy with the results of the game. “We just played with a lot of heart, and hopefully the next game goes as well.”

Levi Root who plays halfback and punter enjoyed the physicality of the game most. “You get to hit people, and it’s encouraged,” he said with a smile.” He was glad to make a lot of tackles during the game. “I haven’t gotten many in the games before, so getting them today was a big thing for me.” He was happy with the results of his practice. “My punting really came together in the game, and a lot of the tackling drills we did really helped. I’ve still got some work to do on them, but it was good.” He pointed to the team’s defensive side as its greatest strength. “As a whole, our defensive line works together really well. Not much can get by us.”

Tyson Malhi, who plays fullback and center, was happy to give an interview on the condition that was only two questions long. “When Matthew caught that 80 yard pass to a touchdown that was my highlight of the game. This season, my team’s strength would be everyone working as a team. When we work hard at practice we do good in games. When we do bad in practice, we don’t do too great. But I think we’ve been practicing hard, and we’ve been doing great this season.”

“I like hitting people,” he said Caylin Jensen with a laugh, when asked what his favourite part of playing football was. “On the first jump tackle on the subsequent kick-off I saved us from getting a touchdown against us. It was nice. I felt really good about it afterwards.” He worked on positioning in practice, and was happy with the results. “Even though this was my first game I feel like we’re going to do really good, and hopefully go all the way.” He said his favourite part of being a Mustang was the brotherhood. “We’re all close. It helps on the field because we don’t argue as much. It helps keep us strong when we’re working together. Our coaches are good. They’ve helped me get up to speed in this one week of me being here, and I was able to play. They’re very supportive.” He hopes to play offense in the future. “I want to try and make it onto the offensive line and work on becoming a receiver hopefully. I’d like to make some plays, and get some touchdowns.”

Next up was Tyler “Sugar-daddy” Scherger, who plays offensive guard. This is his third year playing football with the Mustangs, and his favourite part of the sport is getting to hit people. He was happy with his playing on game day. “I think I just played a really good fundamental game. I didn’t make too many mistakes.” He was happy with his team’s defence. “I think the line this year is really strong. It’s the strongest team I’ve ever played for, I think, and it all starts with the line.” He was quite happy with his coaching. “I think Wayne is a really smart guy. He knows his football, and he’s got really good staff around him.”

Last season's Pincher Creek Mustangs SAMFA All-Stars Tyler Riviere, Austin Bruder, Jordan Hochstein, Colton Teneycke, and John Walker (Charleen Bruder photo)

“I guarantee all of us are probably psychotic,” added Austin Bruder, perhaps explaining why his team is so aggressive.

The bus ride back into town was much rowdier than the trip to the game. The coaches were tired, and Alex Oliver, Coach for the linemen, was taking a well-deserved nap, having come straight from his night job to coach. Watch for an upcoming interview with him.  Everybody had big smiles on their faces as the bus pulled in to Pincher Creek, having spent a productive day developing skills and friendships.

Thank you, Driver!

Related stories:
Five Mustangs attend SAMFA All-Star game, Tyler Riviere receives three awards

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