Red Deer’s Joel DeMale turned some heads this weekend at the Football Canada Western Challenge in Edmonton.
The 15-year-old linebacker helped Team Alberta U16 capture gold at the event with a 47-21 victory over Manitoba in the final on July 7.
DeMale, a Hunting Hills High School product, was a big part of the second straight gold medal win for Alberta at the event.
Kyle Sedgwick, who helped coach the offensive line for Alberta, said he got rave reviews about DeMale from the rest of the coaching staff.
“He’s only played linebacker for basically two bantam seasons. He’s come a long way,” said Sedgwick, who is the head coach of the Hunting Hills Lightning senior football team.
“The defensive coaches were very impressed by him and his coachability and his improvements throughout the week. He’s going to be a good player. He’s got a future at the U17 and hopefully U18 level.”
Manitoba, B.C., Saskatchewan and Alberta were represented at the challenge.
Team Alberta trained for three days before the event. They also beat B.C. 21-16 in their first game of the event.
DeMale played special teams and weak-side linebacker for Alberta. He played the majority of the first-team reps on defense. The teen said he’ll never forget the experience and really learned what it takes to play a high level of football.
“It taught me to be organized because they had a big playbook and you had to learn a lot,” said DeMale.
“On the field, just skill and learning how to play at a high level.”
His high school head coach added it was exciting to see a local product have such a big impact on the big stage. DeMale was the only Central Alberta player on the 40-man U16 roster.
“I thought he represented Central Alberta and our high school very well,” said Sedgwick.
“Very proud of how he played. He’s a very quiet, astute young man. He’s very football intelligent and that’s how was able to make the team. Just his coachability and his willingness to learn.”
According to Sedgwick, the experience was designed to prepare younger players for the U17 and U18 level when the stakes are higher as they represent Alberta. Most of the players on Team Alberta at the U16 level haven’t even played a snap at the high school level yet.
“It was a really high level,” DeMale said of the competition at the Football Canada Western Challenge.
“You had high expectations and you had to perform or you wouldn’t play. It was good.”