Numerous local youth football players were part of the Sask. Selects football program that travelled to San Antonio, Texas, for the annual Pigskin Classic football tournament in February, and one local player was part of a team that won it all.
Running back Cooper Pukas, who played for Penta Completions Estevan Minor Football’s atom team last year, was part of the program for the first time, was on the 10-and-under (10U) team. They opened with a 24-0 shutout of the San Antonio Elite Ducks, and then knocked off the Houston Cougars 20-0. They defeated the AC Red Raiders 18-0 in the championship game to take top spot for the second consecutive year.
The 10U Selects outscored their opponents 62-0 during the classic.
Two other teams with local content played in tournament finals.
Three players from the Estevan Comprehensive School Elecs were part of the Selects varsity team. Safety Hunter Eagles was in his fifth year with the Selects, defensive lineman James Knibbs was in San Antonio for the fourth time and middle linebacker Kolby Forseth was on the team for the first time.
They began the tournament with an 8-3 loss to Monterrey Bay, but responded with a 28-0 win over the South Texas Punishers to advance to the final. There they lost 26-7 to the Alamo City Raiders in what was a showcase game of the tournament, played under the lights.
Defensive lineman Dustin Dupus played in the classic for the first time on the 14U team.
The 14U team was dominant for most of the tournament. They opened with a 40-0 win over Monterrey Bay, and then they won 28-0 over the Corpus Christi Bullys Elite, and 39-6 over San Antonio True Blue. They lost 40-0 to the Texas Independent in the final.
Slotback Chayton Fornwald, who also plays football for the Elecs, was on the 13U team, the fourth time he has travelled to the Classic. They lost 12-8 to the San Antonio Junior Thunderbirds program and 24-5 to the San Antonio Predators.
Defensive lineman Hamisi Kassanga, who played in minor football last season, was slated to play on the 13U team, which would have been his first time at the classic, but he suffered an injury before the tournament.
Three local players were on the 12U team. Offensive lineman Mercedes Paterson was with the Selects for the first time, while wide receiver Dorian Sifton and offensive lineman Preston Sibley were on the Selects for the second time.
Their first game was a 36-6 loss to the Oak Cliff Cowboys, and then they lost 16-8 to Mexico’s Saltillo Titans and 20-0 to the Manitoba Selects.
Selects Football was founded by Zeljko and Deb Stefanovic in 2012. The program started with one 12U football team, consisting of 33 young Saskatchewan football players who trained throughout the winter and travelled to San Antonio to compete in the International Pigskin Football Classic in 2013.
Since then, the program has thrived, and winter football in Saskatchewan has become a reality, offering players a chance to train for an extended season and to be able to pit their talent against American teams.
Selects Football has grown from one team to between four and six teams each year. Teams have competed in San Antonio and Dallas, as well as in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. In the 2017-18 season, the Saskatchewan Selects were joined by two Manitoba Selects teams that competed in the first inter-provincial Selects Bowl.