Without the tireless commitment of a handful of community leaders, there would be no high school football on Vancouver Island.
The John Barsby Bulldogs AA varsity football squad faced off against the Spectrum Thunder at Merle Logan Field on Friday night and won 67-0. Spectrum's football program is fresh in development, under the tutelage of the legendary 71-year-old Roy Vollinger. The tough-as-nails elder statesman of B.C. High School Football played a pivotal role in the development of pigskin on Vancouver Island.
What made Friday's match a touch more special was the coaching situation. The Bulldogs' head coach, Rob Stevenson, coached for Vollinger during his days as a student at the University of Victoria in the early 1990s.
"We got to learn how he did things, and one thing while coaching is you're always putting things in your tool kit from mentors you've had and admired," said Stevenson. "I definitely learned a lot from Roy, particularly about running the football. I've got a lot of respect for the man."
That respect goes both ways between two men who have sacrificed countless hours towards ensuring Vancouver Island high schoolers have a chance to benefit from competition in B.C. High School Football.
In February of 1996, Vollinger launched the Mount Douglas Rams football program. That same year, Stevenson started the Barsby Bulldogs.
Vollinger's legendary style as a demanding coach who impresses the importance of commitment and repetition was in full effect on Friday night as he paced up and down the sidelines, cursing like a trucker and demanding greater efforts from his young athletes.
Following the defeat of the Thunder, Vollinger huddled his troops on the sideline and instructed them to shake hands with the Bulldogs like they meant it. Stevenson and the Bulldogs supplied the new program with their helmets this year, an act of kindness that ensured the kids would have a chance to play the game they love.
"He's a builder," said Stevenson. "Those guys are few and far between. They're very special."
Vollinger had nothing but praise for Stevenson, who "should be knighted" for his efforts to grow football on the Island.
High school football on the Island is in good shape, said Vollinger, but the community must never forget that it often depends heavily on the sacrifice of committed coaches.
Those community leaders can often be found running bottle drives, or in the case of Barsby, manure sales in the high school parking lot.
"You need a guy to do all the work and organize," Vollinger said.
"Don't forget guys like Rob. Who's going to put in that kind of time? Not many people."
The Barsby Bulldogs host the Windsor Dukes on Friday at 1:45 p.m. at Merle Logan Field.
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