A special event takes place Friday afternoon (Sept. 30) at Sardis Secondary as the football Falcons play their first true ‘home game’ in nearly 40 years.
The Falcons take on the Belmont Bulldogs in the regular season opener for both teams. Before the game, Sardis will hold a special ceremony, officially naming the pitch behind the school Rick Klassen Field. Goal posts have been installed along with a brand new scoreboard.
Members of Klassen’s family with be there along with local politicians.
B.C. Premier John Horgan may be there as well.
“For our kids at Sardis, I think the name Rick Klassen still resonates because he grew up right here and went to school right here, before he moved on to university and then a professional career,” said Sardis head coach Sukh Parmar. “And he didn’t just play pro for one year. He had a significant career in the CFL, and I think that still resonates with our kids, even if it was a long time ago.”
Klassen went to Sardis in the 1970s before moving on to Simon Fraser University. He jumped to the Canadian Football League (CFL) in 1981 and played for a decade before retiring in 1990.
All but one of those years was spent with the B.C. Lions. He helped the team to a Grey Cup final in 1983, winning Most Valuable Canadian honours in an 18-17 loss to the Toronto Argonauts. Two years later, Klassen’s Lions won the championship with a 37-24 triumph over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Klassen was voted onto the B.C. Lions All-Time Dream Team as a defensive tackle in 2003 and he was recognized with a place on the B.C. Lions Wall of Fame at BC Place Stadium in 2007.
He died from cancer in 2016.
Talon Fischer, a player on this year’s Falcons squad, said Klassen’s career is an example of perseverance and pushing for your dreams, doing what you love and making the best of life while you have it.
Fischer was born in 2006, 16 years after Klassen’s career was done, but he can appreciate the hard work and dedication Klassen must have shown to reach the heights he did.
“That’s someone to look up to and we have to do our best to represent him with his name on our field,” Fischer said. “The name’s up there for a good reason.”
Sardis hasn’t actually had a true ‘home game’ since the original program ended in 1983. The new Falcons have been using Exhibition Field in downtown Chilliwack. They are expecting a big crowd Friday and hope to put on a good show against the Bulldogs.
“I hope we can give it our best, work as a team and hopefully go get that win,” Fischer said.
It’s a rebuilding year at Sardis, and it’s shown in early results, including preseason losses to South Kamloops (21-0) and AA powerhouse Robert Bateman (42-0).
The team has only a handful of returnees from last season’s Pacific conference winning crew, and it’s learn-on-the-fly time.
“We knew a rebuilding year was coming for our senior varsity team, and this year is about development and improvement,” Parmar said. “We are super excited about our junior varsity group. We have 40 kids registered, 35 of which I’d say are really committed. I think our future looks good at Sardis as we continue to grow football here.
“As a program, we will only get better as we move forward.”
Having a true home field will make a difference.
“We plan every year to host a few games here because I think it’s an excellent facility, and I think we’re set up nicely for years to come,” Parmar said. “It’s super exciting.”
The pregame ceremony honouring Rick Klassen takes place at 1:30 p.m. at Sardis Secondary (45460 Stevenson Road).
The game follows at 2 p.m.