New game, new look for Pioneers football

The Peace River Pioneers high school football team has chosen to play the nine-man game instead of the regular 12-man in the Mighty Peace Football League. On Sept. 24, 2021, the Pioneers beat the High Prairie Renegades in a thriller. Peace River running back Kadin Crann, right, carries the ball surrounded by High Prairie defenders Caleb Pruden (No. 45) and Raiden Duchesneau (No. 0).

Richard Froese
South Peace News

High school football season has kicked off for the Peace River Pioneers with a slightly different look.
Struggling to recruit enough players, the Pioneers have opted out of the 12-man Mighty Peace Football Conference to play the nine-player game at least for the 2022 season.
Peace River is playing in a league with the Camrose Trojans, Ponoka Broncs, Rocky Mountain House Rebels and the Wetaskiwin Sabres.
The Pioneers opened Sept. 10 in Rocky Mountain House.
“We are positive and confident that we are ready to go and look forward to seeing the competition,” says Mark Owens, co-head coach of the team with Hayden Gust.
Up next, the Pioneers host Wetaskiwin on Sept. 17 at noon.
Filling a roster to play 12-man has been difficult the since 2020 when COVID-19 struck, Owens says.
“For the past number of years, especially through the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen some decline in interest in high school football,” Owens says.
“Students in our area are taking on jobs, apprenticeships and have many responsibilities that make it difficult to commit to a full-time sport.
Coaches hope to return to the Mighty Peace league in the coming years as numbers grow.
“Of course, if our player registration increases to 30 or more, we would love to be back competing with our Mighty Peace Football League,” Owens says.
The Pioneers welcome Camrose when they close out the regular season at home Oct. 8 at noon.
All teams in the league will qualify for the playoffs, Owens says.
On the field, the Pioneers are well-prepared for the new season.
“Our veteran defence, and speed with our running backs and receivers are the Pioneers’ strengths,” Owens says.
“We have a good balance of veteran Grade 11 and 12 players and great youth and energy with a number of new Grade 10 players.”
Beside his role as co-head coach, Owens also serves as offensive and defensive line coach and defensive co-ordinator.
Hayden serves as running backs coach and offensive co-ordinator.
On the sidelines, they are also joined by receivers coach Brock Whelan, running backs coach Brooks MacDonald, linebackers and defensive backs coach Casey Pyper and offensive and defensive line coach Sean O’Donnell.

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