Four players from the Cochrane Cobras football team have advanced to the final selection camp for a chance to represent Alberta.
Quarterback Xavier Vaillancourt, receiver Dawson Gladue, defensive back Benjamin Dobson and D-lineman Jude Wilkinson will be trying out in Calgary in April in hopes of cracking the final rosters of their respective U17 and U18 teams.
The U17 team will be travelling to Maui, Hawaii in August to attend an international camp that includes exhibition play against Hawaiian high school teams and a rep team from Saskatchewan. The U18 will stay closer to home to vie for the national Football Canada Cup in Kingston, ON in July.
At 16, QB Vaillancourt is already a veteran of representing Alberta, including the U17 Alberta team that went to Maui last year. The 6'3", 210 lb. Cochrane pivot is currently receiving extensive looks from Canadian and American universities because of his arm strength and foot speed. He has come to know the players he'll be competing against.
"It's pretty much been the same guys every year since the Bantam Bowl. I've seen them a couple of times, so it's been good to get to know them and compete against them."
Gladue was also part of the U17 Alberta team last year and now looks forward to the chance to represent the province at the U18 national championship. He was part of the Cobras triangle (Gladue, Dawson Laye and Dylan Neis) that tore up the field for the team on the way to a record-breaking fifth consecutive provincial championship in tier 3 high school football.
Making the final camp for the U18 team is especially rewarding for D-line player Jude Wilkinson. He unsuccessfully tried out for the U17 team last year but didn't back away from taking another crack.
"Last year was my first year playing football again, whereas this year I felt a little more calm, collective and explosive; a little more experience and ready to go."
Wilkinson played peewee football and left the sport behind until he was approached by Cobras co-head coach Rob McNab to return to the sport. Standing just shy of 6' tall and carrying about 240 lbs. he's in the right box to make a solid addition to the Alberta team.
It was DB Benjamin Dobson's first Football Alberta camp after completing his first season at Cochrane High and he's the lone Cobra vying for a spot on the U17 team.
Last summer, Dobson won a bronze medal in the Alberta Summer Games as a member of the Zone 2 team.
All four have played minor football with the Cochrane Lions.
About 10 members of the Cobras tried out for the two teams and co-head coach Rob McNab says he's proud of all of them.
"These kids take football seriously, as you can see. No other high school, I think, have their players (weight) lifting at this time of year. Our kids are always in here after school preparing for next season."
The team returned to the gym after taking a brief hiatus to recover from the 2018 season and to enjoy the Christmas break.
Reducing the tryout camps to one in Edmonton and one in Calgary encouraged more Cobras to try out, believes McNab.
In all, 400 top-notch high school football players from across the province were in the running and 130 were selected for the final camp.