Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Closing out their high school careers: One more time, with feeling

Senior Bowl last chance for graduating players to make an impression

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A door has already swung wide open for Braedy Will. And Dennis Hrabarchuk is still trying to wedge his foot into any opening and then blow the thing off its hinges.

Both young men are among the 100 graduating football players who will suit up for Saturday's 13th annual Winnipeg High School Football League Senior Bowl at the East Side Eagles Football facility.

It's a game that represents the start of the next chapter for some who will move on to play university or junior football, but possibly the end for others who will hang up their shoulder pads for good when the final gun sounds.

Will, a defensive back/punter, will represent Oak Park High School for one last time this weekend before joining Brian Dobie's University of Manitoba Bisons football program this fall.

Hrabarchuk, a slotback with the Sisler Spartans, is still searching for any opportunity to continue his football career.

"I'm looking at this game as a fun experience, a last game to play with some high school guys and to remember all the friendships I've built up over the years," said Will, a 2012 Potter Division all-star. "It's like one last get-together.

"High school football was definitely a life changer for me. Playing at the amateur level with the (Charleswood) Broncos... I didn't take it as seriously as I maybe should have. But once high school came around it was an eye-opener and that's where I really started to develop myself and learn different skills.

"The Senior Bowl will be a good ending to my high school career."

Hrabarchuk pulled in 18 passes for 589 yards and eight touchdowns this year while serving as one of the Spartans captains. The Senior Bowl game on Saturday is huge, but so are the practices leading up to it where he hopes he can showcase his skills one last time to Winnipeg Rifles coach Ryan Karhut and Bisons assistant coach Tim Kist, the two head coaches for Saturday's game.

"This is a chance for me to get my name out there and maybe help get more coaches to know who I am," said Hrabarchuk. "I'm hoping for something else in football down the road. I've been trying out for other teams and maybe this will help.

"This is the last time I'll be wearing my school's colours. It means a lot. I've been dedicated to them for my whole high school career. Playing football really helped me. It made me more dedicated to my high school and to sports and it made me push myself even more.

"But I want to keep playing and so this week is big for me."

Team Laping, led by Kist, will feature players from the Vincent Massey Trojans, Steinbach, Sisler, River East, Kildonan East, St. Paul's, Grant Park, Garden City, St. John's, St. Norbert, Murdoch MacKay, Tec Voc and Crocus Plains.

The team is named in honour of Nick Laping, who attended St. Paul's High School and the University of Manitoba, where he also later coached, and was instrumental in building the Oak Park Raiders program. He passed away in 2009 and has since been inducted into both the WHSFL and Manitoba Football Hall of Fame.

Team Puchniak, coached by Karhut, is comprised of players from the Vincent Massey Vikings (Brandon), Churchill, Kelvin, Miles Macdonell, Dakota, Dryden, Oak Park, Maples, Neelin, Portage, Sturgeon Heights, West Kildonan and Elmwood.

Thd squad is named in honour of John Puchniak, who also played for the Crusaders and Bisons and then helped build the football program at Churchill into a powerhouse. He is a member of the WHSFL and Manitoba High School Sports Hall of Fame.

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 23, 2013 D4

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