The Terrace Northmen kicked off their new season with a tournament trophy and an opening game win and are crediting their new leadership for giving them the edge.
Previously coached by players who were participating on the field at the same time, the Northmen recently recruited George Dacosta as their first official coach.
With one member dedicated solely to coaching, the team has found new direction and strategy and this, according to team president Craig Dunfield and vice-president Evan van Dyk, gave them the edge to victory in their first season game against Williams Lake.
“Our coach led us in a game plan of a lot of support for the ball carrier, and a lot of rucking,” said van Dyk.
“Everyone bought into the game plan. It was something we haven’t really had in the past… you could definitely see it in our style of play,” he said.
The game against the Williams Lake Rustlers was the first in the regular season for the Northmen, played on the road on May 28.
“It was a really tight defensive game,” said van Dyk. “Williams Lake played hard, but we held on to the win.”
Forward Jared Stephens scored a try early in the first half to give the Northmen an early 5-0 lead.
They kept their lead for most of the first half. Near the end of the first half, Cole Stephens took a penalty and a yellow card near the end of the half for intentionally tackling someone after the play.
The Rustlers took advantage of the Northmen’s shorthand, scoring a try to tie up the game 5-5.
Both teams played a strong, even game for the second half.
Then, with 10 minutes left in the game, Cole Nattrass managed to score a game-winning try.
“We were super pumped,” said Dunfield about the win. “This was the first time we have been able to beat Williams Lake on their home field, so it was quite exciting.”
Dunfield said their key to success was having coach Dacosta and using his style of play, as well as having the strength from players who were away and rejoined the team.
“He is able to focus more on commenting and correcting, as well as give us a slightly different direction, using our horde pack a little bit more,” Dunfield said.
“George is a good motivator and he’s got a really strong knowledge of the game… He is willing to listen and take comments from our experienced players, but at the end of the day he knows that he is the coach. He has got the leadership style where he can accept input and then he makes his decision.”
Aside from the regular season, the Northmen also competed in the Montana Maggotfest earlier in May.
Teams played three games each in the tournament, which had 24 mens teams from across the U.S. and Canada, and one from New Zealand.
Though this was their first time in this tournament, the Northmen won all three of their games and were voted the top team in the division by organizers and referees — earning a trophy for “Best play on the pitch.”
“We weren’t really sure what to expect… it was awesome to compete with so many teams from all over,” said vice-president Evan van Dyk. He added that they were able to beat most of the teams by several tries, and they were “thrilled to have won.”
Next for the Northmen is a social game in Seafest in Prince Rupert June 11. The regular season continues with two home games at the college field, first against Williams Lake on June 18 and then Prince George on June 25.