There’s a lot of similarities between Kaleb Deetjen and Ryley Fujczak.
Not in terms of size or position as Kaleb is five-foot-four, 220-pounds and plays the defensive line while Ryley is five-foot-10, 150-pounds and is listed at wide receiver.
However, their development is another thing. Both got into football at Hunting Hills in Grade 9, playing with the bantam program, moved to the senior Lightning squad in Grade 10 and now have signed with the Edmonton Huskies junior football team in the Canadian Junior Football League.
As for Kaleb, height may look like a disadvantage but he doesn’t believe it hurts him.
“Maybe if I have to jump to deflect a pass,” he said with a laugh. “But really I like my shortness, I’m lower to the ground and it’s tougher for the taller guys to get down to block me.”
Lightning head coach Kyle Sedgwick agrees.
“He’s tough to block as he has leverage plus his footwork and strength is a definite asset as well.”
Deetjen, 18, has played on both sides of the ball plus on special teams.
“I played all three spots on the offensive line as well as long snapper,” he said. “But talking with the Huskies coach I‘ll likely be used as defensive tackle or nose tackle. I’ll just have to see how it goes.”
Kaleb indicated he never really thought about playing after high school until he was contacted by the Huskies coach.
“At first I really wasn’t thinking about football, more so rugby,” he said. “I was thinking if I did go on it would be rugby, but I got a call from the coach asking if I wanted to play and I thought it would be great.
“They talked to me about everything they wanted me to do and the fact they could help me as I move forward.”
Kaleb plans on attending NAIT and ‘taking some sort of trade.” But down the road wouldn’t be against continuing his playing days at the college or university level.
“Never really thought about that either, but if the opportunity came up I would be.”
Sedgwick, who Kaleb credits for his development, feels Deetjen’s time on the rugby pitch helped in his development.
“It definitely helped his footwork, quickness and agility.”
Unlike Kaleb, Ryley had thought about playing beyond high school.
“I thought about playing the next level in any sport if the opportunity came up,” said the 18-year-old, who has always played wide-out.
“In Grade 12 I practiced at slot, which I liked, but never got a chance to play in a game.”
In fact, the pandemic wiped out all of last season.
“That hurt for sure as I don’t think I’m in as good a condition as I would be, and also missed a full year of development,” he said. “But it’s the same for everyone.”
Sedgwick still feels Ryley has developed.
“We were able to run some practices last fall and the guy I saw out there looked like a football player rather than a guy just running around.
“His route running is so much better.”
Fujczak has the speed to play at any level, it was a matter of adding strength and just learning the intricacies of the game.
“I feel I have the speed to play and my route running is good but I do need to go to the gym and add some weight and strength,” he said. “I can play at my size, but blocking is the tough part.”
Ryley, like Kaleb, is thinking about attending NAIT and getting a degree in electronics. But he too, wouldn’t turn down an opportunity to play beyond junior.
“I definitely would play college or university if I get a chance.”
Sedgwick knows it’s a big step from high school to junior, but feels both players have the mental strength and leadership needed to take the step.
“We look at leadership on our team from the Grade 12 players and we had that from both Kaleb and Ryley. Kaleb was a definite leader, even last season when we didn’t play a chance to play, while Ryley is bit more of a quiet leader, but came a long way in that area.
“I believe both will fit in nicely with the Huskies, who have a program well suited for the type of players both guys are.”
Deetjen and Fujczak are not the only two Central Albertans joining the Huskies next year, as Dominic Fudge, a defensive lineman at Lindsay Thurber, Luke Martin of Stettler and Nolan Hodder will also play in Edmonton next season.
Lindsay Thurber’s Ethan Waite joins the CJFL’s Valley Huskers in Chilliwack, and Chase Pack also heads up the road in Edmonton to join the University of Alberta Golden Bears in USports play.
The Huskies open camp July 5, unless the pandemic blows up again, and start play in early August.
“Certainly looking forward to it,” said Kaleb. “We can only hope.”
“I know I’m looking forward to it and hopefully playing a full season,” added Ryley.
As for the Lightning, Sedgwick has his fingers crossed they get a full season in.
They open their season later than normal playing their first two exhibition games against Holy Rosary of Lloydminster — at home Sept. 10 and on the road Sept. 17. They open conference play Sept. 24 against Lindsay Thurber, face Lacombe Oct. 1 and Notre Dame Oct. 15.
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter and member of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame who can be reached at email@example.com