Grande Prairie Composite Warriors treating all opponents with respect

Grande Prairie Composite Warriors running back Tristen Peddle takes the ball up field against the Fort McMurray Saints in exhibition football action at CKC Field on Saturday morning. The Warriors picked up a 27-7 win over the visitors from Fort McMurray. Gordon Anderson / Daily Herald Tribune

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The Grande Prairie Composite High School Warriors kick off week two of the Mighty Peace Football League (MPFL) when the High Prairie Renegades come to town for a 5 p.m. kickoff at CKC Field on Thursday afternoon.

The Renegades didn’t participate in the MPFL last year so Warriors Head Coach Travis Miller doesn’t know much about them. Currently, the coaching staff is watching the Renegades game from last week where they lost 48-0 to the Sexsmith Sabres.

“We’ve been talking about it as a coaching staff where we don’t want to approach these guys any different than any of the other (teams) we have played,” Miller said. “I think mistakes happen if you take teams for granted (as) you’re always leaving yourself open for that element of (a) loss.”

Miller has stated a few times his club is young and he wouldn’t be doing them any favours by not preparing them adequately for an opponent.

“We want to make sure as coaches we’re doing our due diligence to put in the proper game plan,” Miller said, while noting the Warriors lost to the Renegades in a jamboree earlier in the spring. “It would be a disservice to them if we didn’t put in a game plan and do everything we can to help them get there.

“I’ve said it every interview, St. Joe’s is the epitome of success in our region and you have to look at how they do things right. One of the things they do right is to make sure their players get reps in meaningful games, regardless of the score. We want to make sure we’re doing the same thing for our (players).”

Value in all games

The Warriors opened up the MPFL schedule last week with a 36-12 win over the Valleyview Cougars, before picking up a 27-7 win over the Fort McMurray Saints in exhibition game action at CKC Field on Saturday morning.

“I’ve said all along the ceiling on our team is so high,” Miller said. “They’re putting in the effort and every week they’re getting incrementally better. We walk about, every day, getting better, every single day we’re on the football field (whether it’s practice or games, getting better. They’re putting the work in and they’re reaping the rewards.”

It’s not totally unusual to have exhibition games in the midst of the season. Miller did it last year with the Warriors but felt it was too late in the season to reap any benefits from those games. So far this season, the club has played three games that count for nothing in the standings, but don’t tell Miller the games don’t mean anything, because they do.

“This game (on Saturday) was an opportunity for our starters to play the whole game, playing serious meaningful reps against a strong opponent to get us ready for the rest of the season,” Miller said.

Change of plan

When halftime arrived on Saturday morning, Miller gathered the entire team around him near the 20-yard line and had a heart to heart with his players. Perhaps they weren’t expecting what Miller had in mind when he called the meeting seconds before the club went to the dressing room for halftime.

“Coaching is a humbling (position) you have to pick and choose your battles, pick and choose what you do,” Miller said. “I’m an emotional guy, I’m very invested and my coaches are the same way. Sometimes we get too invested in what’s going on and we forget we’re coaches, not players. Saturday was one of those scenarios where we were hyped up as much as the players and it got to us in the first half (of the game). I think I saw a change in the players during the second half because, we as coaches, calmed down and the players were able to play. Going forward we will continue to work on that as coaches.”

The more the merrier

Part of the process in this Mighty Peace Football League season is to discover what the Grande Prairie Composite High School Warriors excel at and what they need to tinker with to improve moving on.

In the club’s 27-7 exhibition win over the Fort McMurray Saints on Saturday morning at CKC Field, Warriors Head Coach Travis Miller discovered his team needs some work on special teams.

The home side fumbled the ball on punt return on at least two occasions and allowed the Saints a punt return for a touchdown. The visitors also returned a second punt to the house but that one was negated because of a penalty.

The positive side in this is that all of the special team’s woes are totally solvable. Miller and his staff are working out a numbers issue at the moment.

Part of the problem—and a fortunate one at that—is the club had 13 players come out to practice last Monday, bringing the roster total to 60 players. Miller wants them all to get a serious look and special teams is a place where they get a first look at from the staff.

“We have players who are physically gifted athletes that are coming out who don’t have reps in football,” Miller said. “Because of that, in live situations, they revert back to what they’re best at, and that’s being an athlete. As we progress through the season, the mental reps will get easier and easier in live-fire situations. We were expecting what we saw on Saturday but we didn’t expect two returns for a touchdown and that’s something we need to work on. You don’t know what you need to work on until you’re in that situation.”