New linebacker comes into his own for Rifles

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/09/2021 (497 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

He lost a pivotal year of development and switched positions at training camp, but the Winnipeg Rifles’ newest linebacker is adjusting quite well.

Through the Rifles’ first three games, Brandon Kamenz was second in the Prairie Football Conference with 49 defensive points. His 17 tackles were also second-best in the six-team league. In Rifles’ first win of the season on Sept. 12, a 20-18 squeaker against the Edmonton Wildcats, Kamenz played a key role, forcing a fumble and taking an interception 65 yards to the house for a touchdown.

“The tight end motioned across the line and I bumped down to pick him up,” Kamenz said of his pick-six. “I jumped in front and made the interception.”

Supplied photo by Matt Hamilton Winnipeg Rifles linebacker Brandon Kamenz has made big strides since switching positions from defensive back.

“It was a game-changing play,” Rifles head coach Geordie Wilson said. “Brandon read that play and took it in from 65 yards. That took the score from 6-0 to 13-0. It made a big difference.”

Kamenz began his career in the St. Vital Mustangs system before moving on to Vincent Massey Collegiate for Grade 11. He joined the Rifles after graduating from high school. In his first season, Kamenz followed a typical development pattern, as he got his feet wet at the junior level seeing action on special teams.

Many players get more time on the field in their second junior seasons, but that valuable development year for Kamenz was wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It really did suck,” Kamenz said. “We didn’t end up doing anything as a team. I wanted to get out there and do everything and try to get better.”

Kamenz worked out three or four times per week, played touch and flag football and attended Pro Prep Academy, a training company run by a team including Winnipeg Blue Bomber Andrew Harris. Coach Wilson noticed the work and said it paid off.

“He kept himself in shape. In terms of strength and conditioning he’s one of the best kids on the team,” Wilson said. “He looks different, he doesn’t look like a little kid anymore.

“He doesn’t play like one, either.”

Kamenz said he was approached about the position switch in camp and said it took time to adjust. He plays SAM linebacker, which takes him to the strong side of the offensive formation. Among a SAM linebacker’s responsibilities are to move up to stop the run and watch for shifts in the offensive line which provide hints of the upcoming play.

Wilson described it as a hybrid position, one requiring a unique body type and a skill-set that can handle the toughness on the inside but also display the agility of a defensive back.

“In Canadian football you need to have that guy,” Wilson said. “Brandon has the body type and athleticism. He fits the bill and he’s a smart kid. Not everyone can play in that spot.”

Wilson said Kamenz has done an admirable job and is a tough player, saying he likes to tackle, makes good decisions and has great closing speed. The best part is Kamenz will only get better.

“I’m still learning obviously as I’m going, but I’m loving playing it,” Kamenz said.

Tony Zerucha

Tony Zerucha
East Kildonan community correspondent

Tony Zerucha is a community correspondent for East Kildonan. Email him at tzerucha@gmail.com

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