Travis Richley and the Sardis senior Falcons have enjoyed a successful season so far, with two wins in two outings heading into a big Saturday (Oct. 23) clash with the Earl Marriot Mariners. (Crazy Bee’s Photography)

Travis Richley and the Sardis senior Falcons have enjoyed a successful season so far, with two wins in two outings heading into a big Saturday (Oct. 23) clash with the Earl Marriot Mariners. (Crazy Bee’s Photography)

Sardis Falcons football program emerges from COVID pandemic stronger than ever

With a strong senior squad and a new junior varsity crew, the future looks bright

While the G.W. Graham Grizzlies make waves as a AAA high school football powerhouse, another local program is quietly following the same path.

The Sardis Falcons have flown under the radar this season, but they’ve been no less dominant against their opposition than the Grizz have been against theirs. The Falcons have played two regular season games in the AAA Pacific division. One was a 59-0 whomping of Nanaimo District and the other was a 33-0 beatdown of the Sullivan Heights (Surrey) Stars.

In his first year as head coach at Sardis, taking over for departed bench boss Adam Smith, Sukh Parmar has been pleasantly surprised.

“We knew we had some very good seniors that had been together for a while, and we had a handful of provincial-level players,” Parmar said. “But it does surprise me a bit that we’ve done this well. The coaching staff and players have worked very hard to get us to this point, and we’re super happy with where we’re at as a team and as a program.”

COVID came at a bad time for Parmar and the Falcons. The pandemic hit just as the fledgling program was about to enter its third full season, and the total loss of the 2020 season could have hit them hard. It still might.

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“Next year we will have a shortage of Grade 10s going into Grade 11 and Grade 11s going into Grade 12, and that will be our challenge,” Parmar said. “The last 20 months basically wiped out a Grade 10 and Grade 11 class, so we’ll kind of be in a rebuilding phase again when our current seniors graduate out.”

For Parmar personally, it was tough taking over a newish program during unprecedented times.

“It was hard,” he admitted. “I’ve always been a position coach or coordinator when I’ve coached before, and if you haven’t done head coaching at the high school level before, it’s challenging. Just the administration stuff in addition to the on-field stuff. You talk about COVID rules and safety protocols. You talk about equipment, scheduling and planning. It adds a whole lot more.

“I’ve had some close friends who’ve run high school programs in the province, and I’ve relied on them for advice. Nate Stevenson at Nanaimo District and Rob Stevenson (John Barsby) have been doing it for 25-plus years and they‘ve been very helpful.”

That Parmar has navigated Sardis through the COVID storm is notable. That the program arguably comes out of it stronger than ever thanks to the introduction of a brand-new junior varsity team is remarkable.

“We’ve got 25 or so kids registered for JV and we’re super happy about building for the future,” Parmar said. “Between the senior and JV teams, we’ve got around 57 football players.

“I’d say 80 per cent of our junior varsity players are Grade 9s, and the most interesting part is, of those players I would would say about 80 per cent have never played football before. They’re super happy where they’re at, and we’re super happy they’re out there having fun.”

The JVs are 1-1 this season with a 35-0 win over Sullivan Heights and a 39-8 loss to North Vancouver’s Handsworth Royals.

“As soon as you have a strong enough JV program, it seeds the senior program for years to come,” Parmar said. “If you get them in Grade 9 and 10 and they stick with it, that’s the true building block that makes everything sustainable.”

The senior squad is on the road Saturday (Oct. 23) facing the Earl Marriott Mariners. The winner will be in the driver’s seat for first place in the AAA Pacific division.

In an interesting twist, the top team in the Pacific will face the second seed in the AAA East, one of either Terry Fox or Chilliwack’s own G.W. Graham.

It would be the first ever meeting between the Falcons and Grizzlies.


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eric.welsh@theprogress.com

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