For more than 19 years, Kelsey McKay bled Churchill Bulldogs blue.
Now, with two games left in the Winnipeg High School Football League, McKay has taken a liking to Vincent Massey Trojan green.
Last year, he said goodbye to the Bulldogs and began building a brand-new team at Vincent Massey Collegiate, and though it's been a labour of love, it hasn't been an easy assignment.
"We started off the season really well and then hit a couple of adverse situations and lost the last couple of games," McKay said. "It has been a learning process all year, and I think it will be until we actually suit up again next year."
McKay said that the team, which numbers 50 players, had a lot of Grade 12s who had never played football before, and he and the coaching staff had to begin teaching them from ground zero.
"Our football IQ is rapidly improving, but were still not there yet," he said. "We always say mistakes are going to happen, but repeating them is the issue, so we try not to repeat them."
"The intensity level here is just awesome," commented Chris Todd, a Grade 12 linebacker who came to the Trojans with midget and bantam experience with Fort Garry Lions and Crescentwood Grizzlies. "The requirements are different from what I'm used to. High school is such a big step up from midget."
The Trojans, who play in the Kas Vidruk Division, are currently 3-2 and tied with River East Kodiaks for first place in the East Conference, but with St. Paul's Crusaders the opponent at home on Thursday at 3 p.m., and a road trip to play the Beaver Brae Broncos in Kenora the following week, the team has its work cut out.
"Part of our goal of success is to win each game," McKay said. "St. Paul's is always a well-disciplined and well-coached program. That is going to be a tough one. Then to go over to Kenora. They always play very well at home."
McKay feels his move from Churchill was good for both him and Vincent Massey.
"It's been a great transition. I'm always going to be a Bulldog at heart. I went to school there, I played there, I coached there for 19 years, and that is never going to change, but now I am very, very proud to be a Trojan."
McKay came to Vincent Massey with a great resumé. After playing for the Bulldogs, he coached 13 years as an assistant under Brian Dobie and Brian Urbanovich. The next six years he was the team's head coach.
"As an assistant, we won one championship in 1992 and were also small-school national champions that year," he recalled, adding that they went to the final 1995 and '97. "As head coach, we were in the finals twice. In 2004, we beat Oak Park Raiders, and last year we beat St. Paul's."
McKay says the Trojans' goal is to move up to the Potter Division next year. "That is not absolute, but that is our goal."
Though playing in the elite high school division is where he feels most comfortable, there is also the prospect of playing his old school. "I guess we'll cross those emotional bridges when we come to them."
Nose tackle Ryland Warren never played football until this year. "I expected just a fun time and to get into shape," he said, "but this has been so much more than that. "I have a really good feeling about the playoffs" Warren continued. "This team has a great heart, it's super-tough and hard-working, so I think we're going to do great."