For Matthew Wong, it was one of those rare instances when he was happy to have the men in zebra stripes call his number.
Wong, the right tackle for the Grant Park Pirates, was selected last month as winner of the Winnipeg High School Football League’s Jim Foubister Award. The recipient is chosen each year by the league’s on-field officials.
The award recognizes a player who not only shows excellence on the field, but demonstrates good sportsmanship, teamwork, and is an "overall good person."
"I was pretty surprised," said the Crescentwood resident. "I wasn’t expecting it. I got nominated for it every year but usually don’t get it."
Wong, a Grade 12 student, said when he read what the trophy was for, he understood why he was chosen. He has always played the game hard, but never crosses the line with cheap shots or extracurricular trash talk.
The Pirates finished the regular season undefeated atop the Vidruk Division, but lost in the Free Press Bowl to archrival Kelvin. Many heated words were exchanged between the neighbouring schools leading up to, and during, the big game, but not from Wong.
"I grew up with a lot of guys from Kelvin," said Wong, who started his football career with the Crescentwood Grizzlies. "Even though I knew what the stakes were, I knew they were good guys. I played my hardest, but would never play dirty or do things I would regret."
Does that sort of attitude go against the aggression needed to be an effective football player? Not as far as Wong is concerned.
"I think that’s just the way I am," he said. "I’m not an aggressive guy. My coach is always trying to get me mad. When the whistle blows, I’m going to keep it sportsmanlike."
Wong said it’s nice to be chosen for an award by the men who are closest to the action: the on-field officials.
"They’re always right there when I’m helping up other guys after the whistle and stuff like that," he said.
Wong wasn’t the only Pirate to snag a major award. Quarterback Damien Surprenant took home the John Potter/D’arcy Bain Sports Physiotherapy Award, as a player who made significant progress throughout his high school career and is planning on continuing to play football after graduation.
Jayden McKoy of Miles Mac was the recipient of the Harry Hood Memorial Trophy, given to a player who combines on-field excellence with academic achievement and involvement in the school community.
The Kas Vidruk Lineman Trophy went to Jeremy Drouin of St. Paul’s in the Potter Division, Mason Dick of Kildonan East in the Vidruk Division and Myron Doerksen of Steinbach in the Currie Division.
The Robert W. Whitlaw Memorial Award, given to a rookie who shows promise on and off the field, was awarded to Brady Oliveira of Oak Park in the Potter Division, Drake Lesperance of St. Paul’s in the Vidruk Division and Sisler’s Todd Campbell in the Currie Division.
For all the award winners, visit www.whsfl.ca.