There was lots to celebrate for the North Battleford Comprehensive High School Vikings junior and senior football teams on Monday night at their annual banquet.
The senior team won their first provincial championship since 1995 and the junior team went undefeated (although they don't officially keep track of wins and losses or points).
With a total of 25 graduating Grade 12s, which is more than half the team, head coach Mike Humenny afterwards talked about the lasting impression the group will leave on him.
"Just the overall sense of how unselfish they were and just a team-first attitude...a tremendous group," Humenny said, who won a provincial championship with the Vikings as a player when he was in Grade 10. "I've come to know the parents in a lot of ways and I think these kids are parented awesome. Aside from their abilities on the field, just how good these guys are daily as citizens in this high school and in the community."
Because it was a championship year, the evening had some added elements, including a slideshow put together by parents, gifts for the coaching staff from players and extended thank yous and speeches from some parents.
But as usual, a big focus was put on the nine individual awards handed out, specifically the five senior awards.
Graduating quarterback Damon Dutton took home the Most Valuable Player award, Grade 12 receiver Zach Wolfe was awarded the 'True Viking' award, graduating defensive lineman Zack Weber won the lineman of the year award, Grade 12 Presley Peterson won the backfielder of the year award, and Grade 11 J.T. Lamb won the undergrad of the year award.
Coach Humenny announced that Dutton had set a new record in the Saskatoon Secondary Schools Athletic Directorate for both passing yards and touchdowns this season with 20 touchdowns and 1,844 passing yards.
"We're not really about individual statistics and individual stuff like that, it's been a team-first mentality, but I think we should announce it," Humenny said to the crowd. "I'll make it my motive to ensure that those go down somewhere, that a kid from Battleford is now a single-season record holder in the Saskatoon league, just to punctuate what we've done as a team."
When it came to the 'True Viking' honour, given to the player who displays leadership off the field and is a key contributor on it, Humenny said Wolfe's attitude was what stood out, in addition to his versatility on the field.
"I think encompassing all those things is just his unselfish manner in which he did everything. Never a word to say. Would always respond with a 'yeah, coach,' or 'yeah I can get it done," Humenny said. "He's a true Viking in every sense... It will be very difficult to replace [him]. I don't know if we'll be able to."
"The personal accolades... [are] nice to get but they don't mean nothing. It's really all about winning as a team," Wolfe said after the banquet. "I've always tried to have that attitude. Right from the start, Mike [Humenny] has always had a clear definition: the best way to celebrate is act like you've done it before and just kind of be humble about things."
When introducing Weber as the lineman of the year recipient, Humenny pointed out how big of a difference maker he was in the final two games of the year.
"We asked [Weber] to move around and play in a few different spots and it was basically our best against their best and I think [Weber] was able to win many of those battles along the line of scrimmage," Humenny said. "Once again it won't show up on the stat sheet, but Zack Weber was a massive contributor for us throughout the season."
Humenny added that the lineman of the year could easily have also gone to Apete Tuiloma, who also had a fantastic three years as a Viking, but there were only so many awards they could give out.
He also said he feels both Wolfe and Peterson have a future in football, if that's a path they choose to pursue, and that Lamb's undergrad of the year award 'wasn't even close.'
Another highlight of the night was when Weber presented Humenny with a large frying pan as a present, which proved to have a story behind it.
"When these guys were in Grade 8 going into Grade 9, we set some goals for them and in a large lecture theatre I showed up one day with a frying pan about this size," Humenny told the crowd. "After I filled these guys up with a bunch of pizza just to get them happy and excited about playing football, I took a pan out and banged it on the floor a few times and suggested to these guys that we're going to fill this beeping thing up a few times with some fish of our own."
Humenny had gotten the frying pan idea after attending a conference in Indiannapolis a few years ago and University of Alabama head coach Nick Saban had told of a fisherman who didn't have a big enough frying pan to cook the big fish he caught, so he kept throwing the big fish back into the water and only kept the small ones. With a large frying pan, you can catch bigger fish, which is a metaphor for the team to set bigger goals.
"It will have a story now forever," Humenny added when asked about the frying pan after the banquet. "It's just a reminder to them to just move ahead but not be afraid to take big steps and be great.
"I think these guys are able to look back and say, 'Wow, I think we did something extra special this year,' and I that's something they can never take away from them."
The four junior Viking awards were also handed out on Monday, with Connor Neave taking home best offensive veteran, Corey Koliniak (who also suited up for the senior team) winning top defensive veteran, Jackson Geddes claiming offensive rookie of the year, and Chase Taggart winning defensive rookie of the year.
On Twitter: @NathanKanter11
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