The Valley Huskers saw their 2021 season end Saturday with a playoff loss in Langley.
The junior football club fell 39-8 to the powerhouse Rams at McLeod Stadium. While Langley moves on to face the Okanagan Sun in the BC Football Conference title game, Huskers head coach Bob Reist looks ahead to the offseason.
Reist said there’s a lot to like from 2021, providing plenty of hope for 2022.
“When we started this season, no doubt about it we were a very young team,” the bench boss noted. “Ten out of 12 players were new on offence. About half of our defence was new, and you never quite know what you’re going to get.
“We knew we had a talented group, but we didn’t know how quickly they would acclimatize themselves to this level of football. That was the test and I was extremely happy with how this group never quit in any game. They learned from lessons. It’s the best group of kids I’ve had in my five years here.”
Their final record was 4-5. They made the playoffs for the second time in the last three seasons and Reist believes the program is poised for a big leap forward in 2022.
“This will probably be our first true offseason where we retain a good core of our team,” he said. “We’ve often had older university guys age out right away, or we’ve had guys move on from the program, but this year is different. We have a group that we’re looking to build forward into next year and beyond, and we think this group is going to be very successful in the future.”
Reist is particularly excited about the offensive line and quarterback positions. It’s been a long time since the Huskers had a legitimately good O-line, but they had that in 2021.
“We had five guys in their first or second year starting for us, and the progression they made throughout the year was outstanding,” Reist said. “We think we have a group that’s going to produce some all-stars in the future. Talking with them all, they want to get back to work right now.”
They also have a young homegrown QB in Josh Janssen.
“If he returns and we hope he does, he has all the tools to be a very, very successful quarterback in this league,” Reist said. “He learned a lot of lessons this year and we have a chance to build with him and see where he can take us.”
The Huskers have only about a half-dozen players graduating, and Reist said it’s great to look back to when he took over the program, and compare those early days to where it is now.
“In 2017 we hadn’t won a game in three-and-a-half years or whatever it was,” Reist said. “Now, we’ve built this program up to the point where we feel we can compete with anyone in our league, and our goal is still to win BCFC championships and compete at a national level. We’ve made great strides the past few years and we’re getting there. I’m extremely proud of where we’re at, and I think this team is ready to take the next step.”