By Ryan McCracken on January 18, 2019.
Making the jump from high school to university can be daunting in any capacity, but four members of the Hat High Mohawks football team will make that transition together after signing with the University of Regina Rams.
Lachlan Hardiker and Connor Taylor put pen to paper with the U Sports squad in the Hat High gymnasium Thursday alongside current and future teammates Josh Howe and Justin Maser, coaching staff from both teams and Mohawk teammate Zachary Campbell, who recently signed with the University of Alberta Golden Bears.
“It’s pretty crazy to think that after all these years of playing football with these boys, that it’s just going to continue,” said Taylor, who joins the Rams as an offensive tackle. “Friendships are going to stay strong and we’re going to be teammates again for the next five years.”
Hardiker says the number of Mohawks heading to post-secondary teams shows just how well the program prepares its players, as well as the work each and every player has put into the team’s five straight Rangeland Football Conference championships.
“We’ve done a lot since Grade 7 when we first started,” said Hardiker, a receiver. “This is what we’ve all worked for, moving on. We didn’t get what we wanted throughout the season, we wanted that provincial championship, but sometimes that’s how football goes.”
Maser, who was the first to sign with Regina, says it was a thrill to watch three of his Mohawk teammates join him at the next level, especially considering they’ve held a close bond for the better part of a decade.
“We’ve definitely developed a bond, not only in friendship but on the field. It’s huge that I’ve got three other guys going to help me not only with football but with school too,” said Maser, a middle linebacker. “I think we can bring a lot to Regina.”
The signings bring the total number of Mohawks on the Rams to five, as this year’s foursome will join Mohawks alumnus Travis Semenok, who approaching his third year with the team and played will all four incoming teammates.
“I’m so excited. It’s going to be so much fun,” said Howe, who will play defensive end and tight end with the Rams. “We all work for the common good. We’re all trying to win and get better together. I think just from talking to a lot of the guys on the Rams already, they all feel the same way and I feel like everybody is going to fit right in.”
Rams offensive coordinator Mark McConkey added Semenok played a big hand in helping recruit the group of Mohawks and will be a significant factor to Regina’s success next season.
“He’s their biggest advocate, for sure,” said McConkey, a Rams alumnus. “When I went there I didn’t really know many people so that first year was kind of awkward, had a lot of unknowns. It would have been nice going with three buddies.”
McConkey added every one of the new recruits offers a varied skill set, as well as chemistry and a support system in making the jump together.
“They all do different things great. Lachlan is a big, tall receiver and we don’t have a lot of tall receivers in Saskatchewan so he was a must-get for us. He’s going to do some good things on our offence. Maser is the one we were after the earliest because we’ve got a big need for linebacker É just the way he attacks the ball, he’s a good player all around the field,” said McConkey. “Josh and Connor kind of came on a little bit later in the recruiting process, but I’m just as thrilled to have those guys. Josh can kind of do it all, I know he played a little slotback and we’ll probably see him playing some D-line … and Connor, you can’t really teach size like that. He’s a big guy, he can move and he kind of plays with a bit of a nasty streak.”
Rams head coach Stephen Bryce says he is thrilled to be taking in the four Mohawks, not just due to their pre-packaged camaraderie, but their character as well.
“It’s great. It’s not just the chemistry, they’re five genuinely good people. They’re great athletes,” said Bryce. “We recruited them because of what we saw on film and what they were able to do athletically, but then we met them and bring them on a recruiting trip and see what kind of human being they are. We meet their parents and you can see why they’re as good of people as they are. They come from great families and a great football program here too.”
While Campbell won’t be heading to Regina in the fall, he’ll still be on the U Sports gridiron as a wide receiver with the Golden Bears and was on hand to celebrate the haul of signings with his teammates.
“It’s really exciting. I’m proud of all of them,” said Campbell. “It’s been a dream for a bunch of us to play university football since we were little. Now that it’s all coming together, it’s really exciting for us. I’m looking forward to playing them.”
Mohawks head coach Quinn Skelton says it’s been more than 15 years since Hat High has sent such a high number of graduating players into post-secondary programs at the same time, and he’s thrilled to see them carry their craft into the next level.
“We haven’t had this volume since about 2002 when we had a provincial run that year as well,” said Skelton. “I’m super happy for the boys, for their families and their coaches as well. Right from bantam, all the way up we’ve been watching these kids progress and grow as young men and players. Now seeing them with this opportunity is just a testament to everybody involved. I know the coaches and the families around here, we’re all really proud.”
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