In the big picture, a national championship by a senior men’s football team is great for them, but doesn’t mean a whole lot.
But for a community like Fort McMurray, which was devastated by the Horse River fire and is still fighting its way back, it means a whole lot more.
And a Chilliwackian played a big role.
Three years ago, David Bosch helped found the Fort McMurray Monarchs. Last weekend, his team beat the Greater Toronto Area All-Stars to claim the 2016 Canadian Major Football League title.
“At one point before the season started we asked ourselves, ‘Do we want to go ahead with this?’” Bosch explained. “We had guys on our team lose homes (in the fire).”
“So our main thing was that we were going to play this season for everybody in the city, and when it was over it was a feeling of relief?”
“You set a goal, put everything into it and when it actually comes true the exact way you pictured it, it’s the greatest feeling.”
Bosch’s name will be familiar to followers of the BC Football Conference Valley Huskers.
He is the best defensive player to play for the Huskers over the last decade — good enough to earn a look-see from the Canadian Football League’s BC Lions.
He was 22 years old when he graduated from junior football and headed to Alberta to make money in the oil biz.
Bosch was out of the game for three years, until he met a guy named Jessie Maddox. Maddox roped the hulking defensive lineman into playing for the Alberta Football League’s Lloydminster Vandals, and they helped that team to a national title in 2012.
“We had a great time doing it, but the five hour trek from Fort Mac to Lloydmister was a bit much,” Bosch said. “Especially when you’re working long 12 hour days.”
“So Jess and I sat down and said, ‘Why don’t we try to make a team in Fort McMurray?’”
It was a lot of work, far more than Bosch expected.
“It takes a lot of time and dedication, and the biggest thing that helped us is we weren’t afraid to ask guys,” Bosch said. “We had a lot of guys who knew us, respected us and were willing to help us.”
“What it also takes is having a good group of people on your board who absolutely love football, and we’re lucky to have that.”
With Bosch serving as the team’s vice president/defensive end/long-snapper/fullback, the Monarchs hit the field in 2014 and were an instant hit.
The newly minted team advanced to the AFL semi-final, then went one step further in 2015, falling 37-24 to the Calgary Gators in the AFL final.
This year’s final saw the Monarchs, 7-1 in regular season play, pitted against the undefeated Central Alberta Buccaneers.
Bosch and company roared back from an 11 point half-time deficit, winning 33-23 and earning the right to host the national championship game on their home field.
There, the Monarchs topped their Ontario opponents 59-45 in a wild-shoot out.
“The offences were just insane and the defences couldn’t slow it down,” Bosch said. “It was unreal, with big play after big play.”
The Monarchs finally halted the All-Stars on their last offensive drive, forcing a turnover on third down. Only then did Bosch let himself believe they had it wrapped up.
“That was in the last two minutes of the game and that’s how tight it was,” Bosch said.
The moments after the final whistle blew were surreal and something he’ll always remember.
And not just because they won.
“You put in the work and the time and did what was needed, and the plan actually worked,” he said. “The feeling, I can’t even express it to you.”
“Just very satisfying.”
Bosch now has the chance to do what few players get to do and go out on top.
As of this moment, he says he’s hanging them up.
But take heart Monarchs because the door isn’t completely closed.
“My body, to put it lightly, has been beaten up and I’m done, I think,” he said, not sounding all that certain. “The fingers on my right hand, they’re so mangled.”
“I noticed in the last year I’ve been really slowing down and it’s not from the lack of gym time.”
“When I play I play 100 per cent with no plays off and I can’t do that anymore.”
“I’m not going to say I’m done done, because if I have a day off work and I’m in shape and the team’s got a game, heck I’ll dress. But for now I am done.”