COCHRANE-- Following the disappointing cancellation of last season, 16-year-old Jacob Patterson will take to the field for the first time in nearly two years with Team Alberta’s football squad this summer.
The 6’1”, 235 lb centre was recently selected to be a part of the Football Alberta’s U18 squad for the 2021 Summer Series.
Although Jacob is a large, imposing young man, he is one of the smaller players on Team Alberta’s offensive line.
“For Team Alberta I’m a small guy,” he said. “I’m the smallest guy on the O-line. The smallest, but the quickest guy on the O-line so I guess that’s good. It’s intimidating for sure. It’s a hard thing to understand that you’re going to go up against guys that are 300, 350 pounds.”
With a limited roster and many young athletes looking for a spot, the competition to get onto Team Alberta was intense.
“The coach there moved me around a lot. I’ve only ever played centre in high school, so he moved me to tackle and guard, I think he was just trying to see where I could play,” he said. “He came out with the roster and I did make the position that I do play, it takes the stress down a little bit knowing that I don’t have to relearn something, especially for a team this high. I’m very nervous for the first game for sure, knowing the smallest guy. But you work hard and do your best and see what happens. That’s always the plan.”
For Jacob, who is small for his position, it is the first time in his football career he has made a team after tryouts.
“It’s the only other tryout team that I’ve ever made besides high school. I’ve been invited to a bunch of different tryout teams and I never made any of them, so making U18 was like a big eye-opener,” he said. “It’s intimidating not only playing football against bigger guys but for a team that I’ve never made before.”
Jacob came up through the Cochrane Minor Football organization before joining the Cobras at Cochrane High School.
The Football Alberta Summer Series consists of one game between Team Alberta North and Team Alberta South.
After three days of tryouts and two days of practice, the teams face off against one another on Sunday (July 18) in Red Deer.
With only one game on the line, Jacob said it is a very similar feeling to the provincial championships he attended with the Cobras in his Grade 10 year.
“It definitely brings you the same excitement, and the nerves going into it, but you also know that whether or not you come out of it on top, you’re better,” he said. “It’s pretty nerve-racking but also energizing knowing you have only one weekend and one game to play. For a lot of these guys, we haven’t been on the field in almost two years.”
Although he is nervous about the game, it is a familiar feeling for Jacob and one that evaporates once the game gets underway.
“It’s always a little bit scary until the first hit on the field and then you’re good. The first hit always tells you it’s game time and then after that, you’re in your season. You can practice all you want, but without that first hit in the game you’re just practicing,” he said.
For Jacob, the Cochrane Cobras and the rest of Alberta’s young athletes, 2020 was a disappointing year.
COVID-19 made their season impossible, save one early season training camp that the coaches organized before public health measures shut the program down.
Many of the athletes at Cochrane High School have aspirations of playing at the next level, and missing out on a full season of practicing, improving and collecting game footage to send to recruiters was a hard pill to swallow.
“It’s definitely tough knowing that you’re not going have that extra year of film, an extra, ‘hey look what I did this year.’ There were a few kids that really took that to heart,” he said. “For a lineman, you don’t really get too much film. You kind of do the same thing every time and you have to do the same thing every time.”
Jacob said he does not feel as though the Cobras are at a disadvantage for the upcoming season, however.
“Every team had that same setback, not only your team. It would have been way different if only the Cochrane Cobras didn’t have a middle year, but every school didn’t have a middle year. It’s a lot more of a setback than a disappointment. Obviously, no one likes not being on the field-- We would play all year if we could … It definitely gets to you a little bit.”
Throughout the season, even though the team was not practicing or playing, the Cobras coaching staff were still there, supporting the kids in any way they could and keeping them optimistic about a return to football.
“They’re always there making sure your school is doing good, making sure you’re doing good and talking to you about getting back on the field,” he said.
After a tough 2020, for Jacob to have secured his spot on Team Alberta is a great opportunity for him to learn, and to bring those lessons back to the Cochrane Cobras as they prepare to make yet another run at a provincial championship next year.
“It’s pretty unreal actually. I went into it thinking that it’s just a good camp to be at, you know, whether you make the team or not you’re going to learn so much,” he said. “Just to be there with the coaching staff around you, it really makes a difference in how you play. Being able to be on the team and be coached by these coaches even more, they’re fantastic, so the longer you’re with them the more you’re going to learn. Not only will it be amazing to play for Team Alberta, it’s going to help my school out because I’ll be that much better when I come back to play.”