Troy Westwood

Troy Westwood

Westwood's Sports Heroes

Former Winnipeg Blue Bombers kicker Troy Westwood writes about Winnipeg’s unsung sports heroes every other week in the Canstar Community News weeklies.

Recent articles of Troy Westwood

Rebels captain stays focused

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Rebels captain stays focused

Troy Westwood 2 minute read Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022

Prabh Bhathal is a 13-year-old getting ready to enter Grade 8 at St. John’s Ravenscourt. Along with being a very good student, he is proving himself an exceptional young hockey player, too.

“I have been playing hockey since I was six,’ Prabh said. “Last year I played for the Rebels U13 AA Black team. I play centre and I do my best to play hard at both ends of the ice. I play a fast-paced game, a fast transitional game with equal emphasis on offence and defence.”

People speak very highly of Prabh on and off the ice, including his coach, Troy Slater.

“Prabh was an absolute pleasure to coach this past winter,” Troy said. “He was selected as our captain for many reasons but mostly for his true dedication to hockey and hard work. Prabh took us from a good team to a great team and helped our Rebels team win two playoff series.”

Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022

Prabh Bhathal, who was captain of his AA Rebels team last season, works hard to b e his best on and off the ice.

For the love of the game

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For the love of the game

Troy Westwood 2 minute read Wednesday, Jul. 20, 2022

Lukas Bladon is a 15-year-old student at Kelvin High School who is enjoying the summer as he prepares to start grade 10.

“Grade 9 was really good,” he said. “I really enjoyed Kelvin. Overall the teachers were great at helping us and educating us. They did a great job of helping to make the experience fun.”

Lukas is an athletic young man who has tried and enjoys a number of sports, but he does have one sport that stands out as his favourite.

“I have been playing tennis since I was eight years old. The way I got into it was that my mom had a Leisure Guide and we were looking through it. We saw Taylor Tennis and decided to give it a try.”

Wednesday, Jul. 20, 2022

Lukas Bladon is a promising young tennis player who says he plays the game to enjoy it — and to beat his dad.

Watch out world, here comes Kaiiana

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Watch out world, here comes Kaiiana

Troy Westwood 2 minute read Wednesday, Jul. 6, 2022

Kaiiana Olivier-Job is three years old and already showing promising signs of being a dedicated student and athlete. Asked to name one of her favourite books, Kaiiana said, with authority “Peter Rabbit!”

She has the entire Peter Rabbit collection and it is not unusual for her to be cuddled up in mom’s or dad’s arms reading her favourite book.

What the future holds athletically for this young lady is still yet to be known, but if mom and dad are any indication, Kaiiana is going to find something she loves to do and become very good at it. Mom Nicole is well known in the Winnipeg squash community, playing at a provincial level and she’s even competed in a number of professional matches in local tournaments. Dad Tevin is a university-level basketball and soccer player who can still be seen out on a court or soccer pitch in our city.

Kaiiana has taken to football and has lots of fun watching games with mom and dad. It is not unusual, while watching a game, for her to scream “You gotta catch it man!” or “Touchdown!”

Wednesday, Jul. 6, 2022

Kaiiana Olivier-Job can’t wait to start training in the gym with her daddy.

Perseverance pays off with pro contract

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Perseverance pays off with pro contract

Troy Westwood 3 minute read Wednesday, Jun. 22, 2022

Matthieu Gomercic is a 24-year-old hockey player from Winnipeg who recently graduated with a degree in kinesiology from the University of Ontario Institute of Technology in Oshawa, where he also played hockey for the Ridgebacks.

He’s now enjoying his life playing professional hockey, after finishing the 2021-22 season with the Atlanta Gladiators of the ECHL.

“University was a great experience for me,” said Gomercic, who was one of the 13 survivors of the 2018 Humboldt Broncos bus crash.

“I was able to set up my classes so that my school day was done at about noon. After that I could relax a bit and focus on hockey. The last two years of classes were interesting with everything being online.”

Wednesday, Jun. 22, 2022

Matthieu Gomercic turned pro last season with the Atlanta Gladiators of the ECHL.

Take him out to the ball game

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Take him out to the ball game

Troy Westwood 2 minute read Wednesday, Jun. 8, 2022

Nixon Carriere is a 17-year-old Grade 11 student at Garden City Collegiate who is very focused and determined to do well.

“School is going good,” he says. “My favourite class is calculus. I like solving numbers, I find it fun.”

Nixon is also pretty darn busy with the sport he loves, and that sport is baseball. He plays for the North Winnipeg Pirates, the Elmwood Giants junior teams, the Garden City Gophers and he’s trying out for the U17 Team Manitoba Canada Summer Games squad.

“It would be a lot of fun to make that team,” he says. “The games are in Niagara Falls.”

Wednesday, Jun. 8, 2022

Nixon Carriere plays on both corners, pitches and hits in the heart of the order for his baseball teams.

The five most important words in sport

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The five most important words in sport

Troy Westwood 2 minute read Wednesday, May. 25, 2022

Kruno Brnjas is a six-year-old Grade 2 student at Dr. F. W. L. Hamilton School in East St. Paul.

Kruno is a little shy but when he decides to speak he doesn’t mess around.

“I like math. I like numbers,” he said when asked how school is going.

“My teacher is Ms. Sarapu. We all call her Ms. S. She is a good teacher. She is nice and friendly, and she is good at math.”

Wednesday, May. 25, 2022

Kruno Brjnas plays soccer at the A.K. Soccer Academy in East St. Paul but he says is favourite sport is hockey, much to the chagrin of his father, Joey.

Dedication, commitment help young player shine

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Dedication, commitment help young player shine

Troy Westwood 2 minute read Wednesday, Apr. 27, 2022

Payton Chornley is a 12-year-old Grade 7 student who attends Collège Churchill High School’s Churchill Hockey Academy.

Payton is incredibly mature and well-spoken for her age. She averages 98 per cent in school, so I asked her what happened to the other two per cent and we had a good laugh.

“Math is my favourite class,” she said. “I enjoy solving problems and trying to work things out. Math is very challenging.”

Payton also enjoys the challenge of the sport she loves, which is hockey. I loved her answer when I asked what her goals are for both her education and her hockey:

Wednesday, Apr. 27, 2022

Payton Chornley was captain of the U13 Winnipeg East Saints for the 2021-22 season.

Goalkeeping in her blood

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Goalkeeping in her blood

Troy Westwood 2 minute read Wednesday, Apr. 13, 2022

Amy Norris is a 14-year-old Grade 8 student at St. Mary’s Academy and a goalkeeper in the Bonivital Soccer Club’s developemental program

She says the beautiful game is in her blood.

“I started playing when I was five,” she said. “I started with the academy that was associated with the Bonivital Soccer Club. Then, at nine, I started to play in the developmental program with Bonivital. I have been playing keeper my whole life.

“My dad and my brother also play keeper,” she said, explaining her choice of position. “I like being able to see everything in front of me. When I am playing it feels like being in net is the right spot for me. It’s hard to explain but something draws me to the keeper position. I love communicating and that helps me to be able to communicate to my teammates during the game with what we need to be doing in our end of the pitch.”

Wednesday, Apr. 13, 2022

Amy Norris (left) is pictured with Desiree Scott. The Winnipeg midfielder won an Olympic gold medal with Canada’s national women’s soccer team in Japan last summer.

Running like the wind

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Running like the wind

Troy Westwood 3 minute read Wednesday, Mar. 30, 2022

Jordan Soufi is a 20-year-old third-year student at the University of Manitoba and he’s also one of the fastest young sprinters in the country.

Nothing is more raw and pure than speed. In sports, speed is the most treasured asset. Jordan is speed.

“For indoor track I run 60 and 200 metres. For outdoor, I run the 100- and 200-metre races,” he said.

Jordan’s indoor season-best at 60 metres is 6.71 seconds, good enough to rank him seventh among all Canadian sprinters. He set that mark in the preliminary rounds of the Canada West conference championships on March 18 at the University of Manitoba’s Jim Daly Fieldhouse. The next day, he ran 6.72 to finish second in Canada West and set himself up well for the U Sports championships, to be held March 31 to April 2 at the University of New Brunswick, in Saint John.

Wednesday, Mar. 30, 2022

Dancing her way to the stars

Troy Westwood 2 minute read Preview

Dancing her way to the stars

Troy Westwood 2 minute read Wednesday, Mar. 16, 2022

It is really beautiful to see the impact a sport or activity can make on a young life. Navaeh Pontes-Botelho, now 10 years old, has been dancing since 2016, and the affect it has had on her has been profound.

“It was a little rocky at first, but by the time she hit the stage she had blossomed into this spunky, confident little girl. L.A. Dance Studio has been a great support,” says her mom, Lucy.

Navaeh’s dance classes consist of ballet, jazz, and lyrical.

“Lyrical and jazz are my favourite styles,” she says. “Through dancing you can express your feelings in different ways. I want to keep dancing for a long time. I want to say thank you to Ms. Lindsey and Ms. Kelly. Thank you for teaching me and thank you for helping to make it fun.”

Wednesday, Mar. 16, 2022

Young dancer Navaeh Pontes-Botelho will perform her first lyrical dance solo this year.

For the love of the game

Troy Westwood 2 minute read Preview

For the love of the game

Troy Westwood 2 minute read Monday, Feb. 28, 2022

Randy Horel is a lot of fun to talk to. He loves sports and, holy smackers, does he ever have a lot of great sports stories.

As an adult, the two sports Randy has dedicated most of his time to are hockey and fastball. About eight years ago Randy tore his rotator cuff, which put hockey on pause for a bit while and brought an end to pitching in fastball.

Despite the injury, Randy loves fastball and he still wanted to be involved in fastball.

“I then became an umpire. I have been umping now for eight or nine years. It’s my little way to give back to the game,” he said.

Monday, Feb. 28, 2022

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When a rotator cuff injury ended his pitching career, Randy Horel turned to umpiring in the Crestview Men’s Fastball League.

Stressing the importance of activity

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Stressing the importance of activity

Troy Westwood 2 minute read Monday, Feb. 21, 2022

Lotus Mendoza is a 12-year-old Grade 7 student at École Leila North Community School who says school is slowly starting to return to normal.

“Things at school have been OK, since they started to lift the COVID restrictions,” she says. “The last couple of years have been pretty difficult. Most of the school experience has been taken away from us because of COVID.

“By taken away, I am talking about all of the different activities one can typically take part in during the school year.”

Lotus really enjoys being active and especially enjoys participating in sports.

Monday, Feb. 21, 2022

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Lotus Mendoza enjoys being active in all kinds of sports, including basketball, badminton, swimming and skating. She's thinking of playing hockey or trying figure skating.

Broadening your sporting horizons

Troy Westwood 2 minute read Preview

Broadening your sporting horizons

Troy Westwood 2 minute read Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022

Brooklyn Fotty is a 12-year-old, Grade 7 student at John W. Gunn Middle School in Transcona.

She and her family believe in being active and participating in new activities. This is reflected in the number of sports that Brooklyn has participated in.

“In school I tried rugby and I like that. I tried volleyball too, and I really liked that. I played football and that was fun. I played on the O-line and it was lots of fun. I really liked playing soccer. I had fun playing forward and passing the ball to help people score goals,” she says.

“I also cross-country ski. I started in Grade 4. Now I cross-country ski with my mom. I like how it is peaceful and how it’s out in nature. I also like swimming. I have liked swimming for a long time. I just got into competitive swimming. My favourite stroke is the front crawl. I like to be in the water. It feels natural to me. I enjoy the endurance part of it.”

Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022

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Brooklyn Fotty, pictured here in her Transcona Nationals football uniform, loves trying all kinds of sports, from rugby to cross-country skiing.

He’s got football in his blood

Troy Westwood 3 minute read Preview

He’s got football in his blood

Troy Westwood 3 minute read Monday, Jan. 17, 2022

Everett Reid is a 17-year-old Grade 12 student at Vincent Massey Collegiate who has a great sense of perspective and focus.

“School is going good,” he says. “I am taking some university courses focusing on the sciences. I am hoping to go into kinesiology or health science in university. These last couple of years have been difficult. It has been a lot more stressful with all the on- and off -again stuff. No in-school sports for a while was really hard.”

Like so many athletes during this COVID-19 era, Everett missed an entire season of playing a sport he loves.

“Going into Grade 11, we thought our football team was going to be really good. It was a punch in the gut to not have the chance to play. Coach said to keep training, though, and to work hard. Luckily we were able to play our season in Grade 12.

Monday, Jan. 17, 2022

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Everett Reid (in white, with the ball) was thrilled to once again play football with his teammates at VincentMassey Collegiate last fall.

Dreaming of playing in ‘the dub’

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Dreaming of playing in ‘the dub’

Troy Westwood 2 minute read Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022

Shea Chornley is a 14-year-old Grade 9 student at Shaftesbury High School who applies himself both in the classroom and on the ice for the sport he loves.

“Things are going really good this year with school. I have good marks and I am getting all my assignments in on time,” he said.

Since September, Shea has been a part of the Rink Hockey Academy and is playing with its U15 prep team. He said that he is loving every second of it.

“It has been awesome. The group and the culture is the best hockey I have ever played and been a part of,” he said. “We go to school until noon and then go to The Rink until 4 p.m. We travel a lot as well, into the States and across Canada. It has been a lot of fun.”

Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022

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Shea Chornley, a member of the Rink Hockey Academy’s U15 prep team, will be eligible for the Western Hockey League draft in May 2022.

The importance of hard work

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The importance of hard work

Troy Westwood 2 minute read Monday, Dec. 20, 2021

John Lubenda is a 14-year-old, Grade 9 student at Sisler High School.

His favourite thing to do away from school is to play the sport he loves, which is soccer. John gets a big smile and his eyes begin to twinkle when he speaks of the game he loves.

“I have been playing since I was about seven years old. Soccer is definitely my favourite sport,” he said. “The team I play for is U15 FC Northwest. Our coach is John Paolucci and he is a great coach. He helps me a lot.

“We have a real good team and we are always working to get better,” John added. “When I was younger I played striker. Now I play centre back. I really like the position. I like reading the play in front of me. I like stopping other teams from taking shots at our net. It is a great challenge to suppress other teams and players.”

Monday, Dec. 20, 2021

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John Lubenda is a central defender for FC Northwest’s U15 soccer team and dreams of one day playing professionally.

Aiming for success

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Aiming for success

Troy Westwood 3 minute read Monday, Dec. 6, 2021

Julia Bilous is a 16-year-old Grade 11 student at St. Mary’s Academy who is a dedicated and hard-working student.

She’s equally dedicated to playing hockey with the school’s Flames Prep program (which is separate from the school’s WWHSHL team).

“School is going well,” she says. “It’s very busy right now with school, tests, and hockey, but things are going well. As far as a favourite subject goes I have always liked math and the sciences. I like biology and I have been enjoying physics more as of late.”

Julia enjoys playing with Flames Prep.

Monday, Dec. 6, 2021

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Julia Bilous, a 16-year-old player with the SJA Flames Prep program, hopes to earn a scholarship to play hockey at a Canadian university.

Backchecking forward is a coach’s dream

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Backchecking forward is a coach’s dream

Troy Westwood 2 minute read Monday, Nov. 22, 2021

Adrian Penner is a 14-year-old Grade 9 student at St. Norbert Collegiate who has tremendous perspective on things around him.

Adrian plays hockey for the U15 South Winnipeg Kings A2 Black team.

 “I have been playing organized hockey since I was nine,” he says. “I really enjoy getting to know new teammates. It is a lot of fun getting to know the game of your teammates. Understanding the chemistry and what a teammate is going to do out there is something I really enjoy.”

Adrian also says the kind of things his coaches must love to hear.

Monday, Nov. 22, 2021

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Adrian Penner, who plays for the U15 South Winnipeg Kings A2 Black team, says having fun is the most important part of playing a sport.

Hard work, lots of play for this young goalie

Troy Westwood 3 minute read Preview

Hard work, lots of play for this young goalie

Troy Westwood 3 minute read Monday, Nov. 8, 2021

Maddox Slater is 11 years old and he is already living a life that’s dreamed of by many who love sports. It’s not easy though, as there is lots of hard work for all the students who attend the Starbuck Hockey Academy.

“I get up at 5 in the morning. We drive to the bus and then the bus takes me to school. We get to school at about 8:45 a.m. I have classes through the day and then at the end of the school day we practise from 2:15 to 3:15 p.m.,” he told me.

I asked Maddox how he would rate getting to play hockey at the end of every school day, on a scale from one to 10.

“It’s a 10! How awesome is that? We are always very active when we have recess and then at the end of the day we always have hockey,” he said. “Hockey always lights up my day. This is my second year at the academy and I love it.”

Monday, Nov. 8, 2021

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Maddox Slater is a goalie at Starbuck Hockey Academy who says he thrives on the pressure that comes with playing that position.

The numbers are on his side

Troy Westwood 3 minute read Preview

The numbers are on his side

Troy Westwood 3 minute read Monday, Oct. 25, 2021

Nathaniel Lisak is a soon-to-be 17-year-old in Grade 12 at Grant Park High School who has a great future ahead of him.

As a student Nathaniel is very dedicated and understands the importance of education.

“We are an academics-family,” he said. “My parents want to make sure I set a high academic standard for myself. My grades are in the high 80s, low 90s. My favourite class is math; I am good with numbers.”

Nathaniel is real good with some other numbers, too. At 6-2 and 290 pounds, he’s a dominant defensive lineman in football.

Monday, Oct. 25, 2021

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Nathaniel Lisak (centre) is a defensive lineman with the Grant Park Pirates football team who aspires to play professionally.

Hockey Huskie can’t wait to hit the ice

Troy Westwood 3 minute read Preview

Hockey Huskie can’t wait to hit the ice

Troy Westwood 3 minute read Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021

Caden Ostermann is one of those people who positively affects those around him.

The Grade 12 student at Sturgeon Heights Collegiate is a member of the high school’s hockey team and his coach, Tyler Metcalfe, can’t speak highly enough about Ostermann.

“Caden has instantly been a leader for our team,” Metcalfe said. “He is one of those players who carries a certain presence with him.

“He is our hardest working player and undoubtedly will drag guys with him in the right direction as we pursue our second school championship.”

Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021

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Caden Ostermann can’t wait to hit the ice with his Silver Heights Huskies high school hockey teammates.

This pole vaulter has lofty ambitions

Troy Westwood 2 minute read Preview

This pole vaulter has lofty ambitions

Troy Westwood 2 minute read Tuesday, Sep. 28, 2021

Emily Blackner is a 24-year-old pole vaulter athlete who graduated this past spring from the University of Manitoba with a degree in recreational management and community development.

“It feels great to graduate. I am now finally able to do something related to my field,” she said. “I am excited to see where it takes me.”

She is also very excited to continue on her journey as a high- level athlete.

“I began as a gymnast. When I was nine years old I was asked to join the national program,” she explained. “I was with them from nine to 19 years old. We trained for 25 hours a week. It involved remarkable commitment. I was in artistic gymnastics, which is vault, bars, beam, and floor. I wouldn’t change that experience for anything. It formed who I am today.”

Tuesday, Sep. 28, 2021

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Emily Blackner just finished her university degree and aims to continue competing as a pole vaulter.

Anxious to return to the pitch

Troy Westwood 3 minute read Preview

Anxious to return to the pitch

Troy Westwood 3 minute read Wednesday, Sep. 15, 2021

Keaston Brooker is a 15-year-old Grade 10 student at Kildonan East Collegiate who also excels on the soccer pitch.He was looking forward to a great team experience after he made the Manitoba U16 team for the North American Indigenous Games but unfortunately, owing to COVID-19, the NAIG event was cancelled. Keaston is one of those athletes who is able to cover a lot of space with what looks like little effort. “My favourite sports are soccer and basketball,” he says. “I am planning on trying out for the school basketball team if they have a season this year. I have played soccer since I was four. Soccer is a sport I just have fun playing”.Keaston has played for many soccer teams over the years and right now he is looking to join a new club. “I am looking forward to playing organized soccer soon. I like to play midfield. I like the position because you get to cover a lot of the field. It is fun to help control the game from the midfield position.”Keaston lives in Fort Garry with his mom Daniel and his younger brother Liam. “It is hard for me to express something about my mom because there is so much to talk about,” he says. “I am very thankful for my mom. I love her very much.”Keaston’s two favourite players are Christine Sinclair and Cristiano Ronaldo. “The both of them have been so successful. It is amazing and awesome how many young Canadian players that Christine Sinclair has inspired.”Keaston enjoys spending a lot of time on the pitch and enjoys being around teammates. “Teamwork is a very important part of sports, especially if you want to be successful.” As for schooling, Keaston says the COVID era has been challenging but he is finding a way to get through it. “It has been a pretty big struggle to get used to everything,” he admits. “Online was mostly difficult because there was not as much interaction with the teacher and it was a little more difficult to get help. “I am happy things are at least starting out normal to start this year. My favourite classes are phys-ed and autobody. I like working on cars.”Keaston knows it takes a lot of effort to be successful and he has this to offer to young athletes:“Work hard and have a lot of fun.” |

Wednesday, Sep. 15, 2021

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Keaston Brooker made the Manitoba U16 soccer team for the North American Indigenous Games, which were unfortunately cancelled owing to COVID-19.

Young football player thankful for Pro Prep

Troy Westwood 3 minute read Preview

Young football player thankful for Pro Prep

Troy Westwood 3 minute read Monday, Aug. 16, 2021

Jalen McDonald is an active 16-year-old, getting ready to start Grade 11 at Vincent Massey Collegiate.

He enjoys a bevy of sports throughout their seasons, including snowboarding, skiing, soccer, ultimate Frisbee, basketball, and track and field. While he has a lot of fun with each, he admits that none of these hold a candle to football.

“Yes, football is definitely my favourite. I love how difficult and tough it is. I really like how football builds you as a person,” he said.

He also admitted that the COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult on athletes, holding them back from the games they love.

Monday, Aug. 16, 2021

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Jalen McDonald, who is looking forward to putting the pads on for the Vincent Massey Trojans high school football team this fall, has kept sharp at Pro Prep Academy.