The Biggar Blazers probably felt like underdogs going into their playoff match-up against the Rosetown Royals a couple of weeks back. Rosetown defeated them 67-22 in the regular season, and then Biggar came back with a 44-14 win in the playoffs after an impressive showing against Clavet helped end their regular season headed into the Rosetown rematch.
“We went to Rosetown for the night game, and they handed it to us pretty well. We thought it would be a close game and we stacked up well against Rosetown but they kind of handed it to us,” said Biggar football coach Derek Argue, “We rebounded pretty good against Clavet, and I thought if we had that same effort it would be close against Rosetown. Not that I thought we would beat them by a bunch or anything, but we would just play better and play a close game and let the chips fall where they may after that. It got us going in the right direction that’s for sure.”
The big win in Rosetown sent the Blazers off into a provincial playoff match-up on the road against the Watrous Wildcats, a team that took an interesting road to reach their home playoff date. Watrous was forced to win an extra playoff game to claim their spot in provincials, and have managed to keep rolling ever since. The Blazers played a great first half against the Wildcats to go up 24-22 at the break, but injuries and a team running out of gas late would result in a second half shutout for the Watrous defence. The host side managed to keep their storybook season going, and send Biggar home with a 58-24 loss.
The Blazers’ season was something out of a storybook as well, as they were playing for one of their own in Kalaen Dhil-Stevenot.
“He’s a grade 12 boy, I’ve coached him for 7 years,” shared Argue framing the situation, “We found out at the start of month that he had to go get a tumour removed from his brain at some point near the end of October. On the 21st he went in for surgery, so it was leading into that playoff game."
The Biggar Central School senior was a major source of inspiration for his teammates this year, and all around the school as the team entered their playoff match-up against Rosetown ready to play hard for their absent teammate.
“He was selling some shirts. We’ve all got some purple ribbons with his #74 on it,” said Argue, who let us know his player’s recovery has gone well so far, “That’s who we were keeping in mind when we were playing. He’s kind of our heart and soul guy, so we were playing for him that game.”
Only thanks to the date of his surgery was Kalaen not able to suit-up in the playoff game. He played the whole season including his team’s regular season finale against Clavet on October 15th, before the October 21st date for his operation forced him to hang up the cleats. Coach noted Kalaen as maybe not the best player on the team, but his work ethic as a grade 12 player was nothing short of excellent when it comes to the coaches standard for the team. His situation along with the willingness to play through it for his team, was something that the Blazers used as a rallying point all season.
“Like I said he’s just a heart and soul guy. Not our best player but he would never miss a practice, never had an excuse, and would just always work to get better,” said Argue speaking on Kalaen as a role model for his team, “He’s a good one for the guys, because especially in grade 12 you don’t know how many games you are going to play sometimes. You are playing for a guy who wishes he could be out there every single day with us but he can’t.”
Obviously that extra fuel helped them take the win against Rosetown, and start off nicely in Watrous the next week out, but their season eventually ran out of rope after the roller coaster past few weeks. Kalaen was hopeful to play the entire season before the operation date became a reality, but he and the team both knew the importance of putting ones body over a sport, especially during a time in the province where you wouldn’t dare reschedule something so important. Kalaen put his time in with the team before being forced to depart, leaving the Blazers to try and do their best without their rally sign entering the postseason.
“He’s an awesome kid, and obviously any kid going through that you wouldn’t wish on anybody. He’s our heart and soul guy and never lets it slow him down. He comes to school everyday and just laughs, and makes everybody a better person honestly. It’s tough to see him go through that, but again there’s probably no one strong enough to through it like he has either.”
Coach Argue finished our conversation by assuring that Kalaen is currently doing well, and that things are looking to continue on that path as he makes his road to recovery. The team was unable to let the touching story with their teammate propel them to a provincial championship spot, but the sacrifice and sorrow of Kalaen’s story, followed up by a hopeful future for the Biggar high school senior is something that has likely created a closer bond around the school community, not even to mention between Argue’s players on the football field.