Clavet athlete helps Sask U18 football team bring home gold

Colby Joyes (66) of the Clavet Cougars carries the ball during the provincial high school 2A 6-man football championship final against the Dalmeny Cougars in November, 2017

Winning the 2018 Football Canada Cup national football championship as a member of the Team Sask U18 squad was an “unbelievable” experience for Clavet’s Colby Joyes.

And at 6’7”, 320 pounds, Joyes was definitely a big contributor to the 31-26 victory over Team Alberta in the championship game in Calgary July 22. Enroute to the gold medal final, Team Sask rolled over Manitoba 48-6 on July 16 and 32-8 over Ontario on July 19.

“When the final buzzer went and we knew we had won, it was an unreal feeling,” said Joyes in an interview on Thursday, July 26. “To hoist that national trophy with 39 of my best friends was amazing.”

Joyes, who plays right tackle on the offensive line, was one of two Clavet football players to make the final cut for the U18 Team Sask after a selection camp in May and training camp in early July. The other was receiver Hunter Shmon, who had the bad luck to break his collarbone in the team’s last practice before leaving for Calgary. Shmon still made the trip to the tournament, but was unable to play. He was replaced by Avery Wagner of Riffel High School.

“I was extremely fortunate to have Hunter with me on the team,” said Joyes. “We’ve played football together since we were in Grade 5, so we’re good friends.”

Joyes said having two players on the provincial team, when almost all the other players were from larger centres, shows the quality of high school football programs in smaller centres.

“I think it says a lot about our community,” said Joyes. “We come from  a high school with a student population of 300 kids in Grades 7 to 12, and we have two guys on the team. The big schools in Regina and Saskatoon have student populations of 1300.”

Joyes and Schmon were part of the Clavet Cougars team that won the 2017 provincial high school 2A six-man football championship last November, after narrowly defeating the Dalmeny Cougars 72-70.

Joyes said the coaching staff of the U18 team, which included head coach Jeff Stusek and assistants Lyle Evanisky, Cody Halseth, Travis Serke, Ventson Donelson, Kyle Stroeder and Dwayne Masson, ran a tight ship.

“They kept everybody focused,” said Joyes. “The biggest thing I took away from the whole experience was that it’s important to embrace adversity.

“No matter what happens, just smile and laugh and see where it goes. Don’t get down or discouraged.”

Team Sask members celebrate their national championship in Calgary

Joyes said the Team Sask roster was not publicized prior to the tournament.

“That was a tactical advantage,” he said. “The coaching staff didn’t want the other teams to know who we were.

“We called ourselves the ‘silent assassins’ – that was our motto. We were quiet and focused. We didn’t even talk or have any music on the bus rides to the games. It was dead silence.

“The theory behind it was that we didn’t want anybody to know we were coming. We’d just show up and play. It was a strategy that paid off.”

He said the first game against Manitoba was tough because they had no game film on their opponents.

“When we were preparing, Manitoba was the only team we didn’t know much about,” said Joyes. “We had to keep our heads in the game all the time.

“The game against Alberta in the final was by far the toughest one physically. We  were down by ten points in the third quarter, and everybody was exhausted.

“We didn’t know if we could come back, but we found a way in the fourth quarter to turn things around and hold on to the lead in the final minute.”

Joyes still has one more year of high school football, and has already had sports scholarship offers from several universities.

“I love the game, and it’s extremely exciting to be given the opportunity to play at a higher level and get an education at the same time,” he said.