Catch You on the Rebound
By Curtis J. Phillips, Connect Contributor
It’s a Sunday evening and Jesse Maddox is out at a local eating establishment for a late night supper.
Joining him are two friends, Asante Mizan and Jeff Holton.
Mizan, as is Maddox, are members of the Fort McMurray Monarchs football team.
A men’s football team that a little more than 24-hours prior, had defeated the Central Alberta Buccaneers 32-23 at a rain-drenched ME Global Athletic Park in Lacombe, Alberta to claim their first Alberta Football League (AFL) championship.
Holton was there, too, last Saturday.
As mentioned, he was also at the dinner table last Sunday – in name only though as his presence is in the form of a trophy – the Jeff Holton Memorial Trophy which is symbolic of AFL supremacy.
Maddox had made acquaintance with Holton before, winning the AFL as a member of the Lloydminster Vandals in 2010 and 2012.
Maddox’s dedication to the sport was evident. He had been residing in Fort McMurray since 2009 and would have to make weekly six-to-seven hour trips for home games in Lloydminster or away games elsewhere in the province during the playing season.
In essence, all of his games were away games.
Things were about to change.
“At some point, I thought to myself that I was crazy for doing this for so long,” recalled Maddox, 31, tiring of his balding tires. “I said to myself, Grande Prairie (Drillers) has a team, so does Lloydminster, and Fort McMurray has a bigger population and an amazing facility (MacDonald Island Park’s Shell Place), so why not have team?”
With Maddox as part of a strong contingent, the bid was made and the Monarchs joined the AFL for the 2014 season.
A year later, in 2015, they made it to the AFL championships, losing to the Calgary Gators 37-24.
The Gators would go on to the Canadian Major Football League (CMFL) national final, narrowly being beat by the GTR All Stars 39-38.
So, I ask: “How does a team in only its third year, win an AFL championship?”
A title that sets up at a September 10 meeting at Shell Place for a kick at the CMFL crown against the visiting GTR All Stars from Toronto.
“Recruiting – we elevated the recruiting game right across Canada,” said Maddox, who plays middle linebacker and is Monarch’s president. “(Head coach) Dave Spence (formerly of the Montreal Transit, CMFL Northern Football Conference (NFC)) was brought in this year and he has a wealth of contacts as do some of our players.
“Playing here at this level, gives players who played university, junior, local high school or even former CFL players, a chance to continue to play football while also working.”
Maddox was only nine years old when Sid Fortser, who coached the CMFL Sudbury Spartans for 28 seasons, died in 1994.
Maddox was introduced to Forster’s spirit in 2012 when he held aloft the Sid Forster Memorial Trophy as a member of Vandals gridiron squad that beat the GTR All Stars (than known as the Toronto Titans) 25-19 in the 2012 CMFL championship.
Maddox and teammates would no doubt want to host Forster and Holton for a late dinner in September 10.
“We have to be prepared and be ready to play not just one quarter or two quarters but four quarters of football against (GTR All Stars),” said Maddox of the defending CMFL defending champs who are heading west after upsetting Sarnia Imperials 29-21.
“This (Monarchs) is one of the most talented teams I have ever played on,” admits Maddox. “Our team is explosive.”
To be honest, last time a local adult sports team has been this dominant on the provincial stage, we may have to go way back to 1985 with men’s basketball Team Xerox.
Featuring six former university players and one NCCA recent graduate, 6-foot-8 John Randa of Eastern Washington, the local squad would play a 51 game season – majority of the games on the road against teams in major centres.
The team was given the moniker of “The Dream Team.”
The Monarchs also have plenty of talent with the likes of Melvin Abankwah, Jourdain Alexis, David Bosch, Nick Leonidakis, Maddox, Kwame Osei, Pascal Tshilambo and 6-foot-4 Quarterback Will Arndt, who posted huge numbers during his career at Western Connecticut State and had a tryout with the CFL Calgary Stampeders.
Will this be Fort McMurray’s next dream team?
“It just might be,” said Maddox. “I’ll tell you on September 10.”
Hopefully, Holton and Fortser will be by his side.
Catch you on the rebound.
– Connect Weekly –