The excitement and anticipation of playing football past high school years was part of Jacob Mamer's and Zenon Orobko’s futures.
Orobko, a 2020 UCHS graduate, had signed with the Regina Thunder of the Prairie Junior football League and was hopeful for a season last year.
Mamer, who graduated from McLurg in 2018, was already part of the University of Saskatchewan Huskies and had two seasons under his belt.
Both CIS football and the PJFL season joined all other sports and were halted due to the pandemic.
As fall approaches, both players are looking forward to a return to normal as their seasons are set to go on the gridiron.
Mamer says, “Last season was different obviously because there were no games to get ready for. However, last year we were able to practice three days a week September and October as this was before the hard regulations fell on Saskatchewan. Because there were no games to prepare for, practices were aimed more at player development then game preparation. Guys who were lower on the depth chart had alot more reps then they would in regular years and we scrimmaged every week. I know I benefited alot from these practices for preparing myself for games and a normal season this year.”
Mamer says he felt lucky to live in Saskatchewan where, this winter, it seemed like our restrictions were the lightest and shortest of most provinces as some provinces are just now letting teams get back to workouts and practicing. He also adds that their great coaching staff and group of leaders had them instead of preparing to win Vanier Cup 2020, they would use the year as an extended off season and prepare them physically and mentally to compete for 2021 season.
In his fourth year of Kiniseology at the U of S, Mamer is pursuing a nursing degree. He felt the Huskies football team did an excellent job scheduling workouts and training around school time, even if it was online.
“It's really all about how you look at a bad situation. In a year full of setbacks and challenges you have to find the light at the end of the tunnel and focus on that. For our team that was the 2021 football season. You just have to show up everyday and give 100 per cent effort while you're there and know that one day it will pay off. Nothing bad has ever come from giving something 100 per cent effort.“
The U of S Huskies season starts Sept. 24 on the road playing the University of Calgary Dinos. The team’s first home conference game is on Oct. 15 against the University of Alberta Golden Bears, but the team will play a non conference exhibition game on Sept. 18 vs the University of Manitoba Bisons on home turf.
Zenon Orobko, a 2020 UCHS graduate signed with the PJFL Regina Thunder, that are part of the CJFL. He was able to attend fall camp in 2020 and the team had planned on a few different season schedules but the pandemic played havoc with all of them so the Thunder continued with an extended seven week fall camp instead.
Orobko says, “We found out the season wasn't going to happen early in August but I kind of had a feeling during the whole waiting process that it wasn't going to work out. Upon that happening our coaches did a great job of setting us up for success and our veteran players were leading everyone through staying motivated, while there was no exact goal we were practicing towards. It was really difficult but the entire organization did a great job of allowing us to focus on football while giving us team-building opportunities to supplement that.”
Orobko has now completed his first year of an education degree from the University of Regina, online from home. During the home portion of online learning at university, Orobko returned to his student position at Delta Co-op Home Centre as well as working as an EA for Grade 8 at UCHS.
“For me, it wasn't difficult working, doing school, and training as I am used to being that busy and have been as long as I can remember. It was honestly more difficult not to be occupied with something to do every day. “
Orobko also says, “Our team's strength and conditioning coach creates programs for us to follow at home whether it's lifting weights, running, stretching, etc. I was lucky enough as a school staff member to be able to work out at the high school and I had access to everything I needed. I also was doing some throwing with my dad in the gym whenever I had an opportunity to.”
His season preparation has included traveling back and forth to Regina the past few weeks doing smaller training sessions with quarterbacks and receivers on Thursdays and Sundays, while also preparing to move into his place for both university classes and participation in his football season.
Orobko says he is at a bit of a disadvantage because of his late birthday, so only has three more years of eligibility.
“I won't be red-shirted this year and our current starting quarterback is doing a great job of showing me the ropes and helping me learn the system.”
The Regina Thunder kicked off with an exhibition game in Swift Current against Calgary on Aug. 14, and their first regular-season game is Aug. 22 on the road in Winnipeg.
Orobko adds, “I'm excited to see how well we can play because we've stayed in 'Go mode' for a long time and everyone is thirsty for a chance to compete.”
You can follow the social media accounts of either of these teams and watch your home town boys as they contribute to their team’s season success stories.