WAKAW, Canada – In the condensed world of six-man football, all-star games and showcases aren’t highly touted like they are at the 11-man level. However, one of the biggest competitions in six-man will include four local faces this year.
The CanAm Bowl is an all-star game in which the best six-man players from the United States travel north to Saskatchewan to take on the top talent from Canada. This year for the first time, Farson-Eden High School will have representatives in the game – two players and two coaches.
The Pronghorns set the standard this year in Wyoming, running away with the six-man state title, and no one was in the middle of the success more than Clancy Gines and Lain Mitchelson – both selections for the CanAm Bowl. At the helm was head coach Trip Applequist and assistant Scott Reed, who will both be on the coaching staff for the all-star showdown.
“It’s awesome really. It’s one of those experiences you kind of dream about,” Applequist said. “I think It’s going to be a really good time. Anytime you get to coach an all-star game with great players and great kids, it’s an honor.”
Although Applequist was the head coach for the Pronghorns, he said that it was Reed who did most of the legwork to make sure Wyoming players made the roster. During the past few years, the USA team was mostly made up of Montana players due to changes in administration, but with the level of Wyoming’s top players, Reed and others wanted that to change.
“People were screaming, ‘Seriously how do you have a CanAm Bowl and not invite kids from Wyoming, or Nebraska, or Texas?’” Reed said. “But this year, Jim Miller and his son Brock Miller, they coached together at Lambert, Mont., decided to take it over … and then they asked Tommy Tricks from Texas and Trip (Applequist) and I to go up and help, too.”
Jim Miller was the one who reached out to Reed, wondering if he was the head coach for the FEHS team that was running through Wyoming competition. Reed said no, but had the connections to easily put him in contact with the right guy.
Unsurprisingly, Jim Miller not only wanted coaching help from Applequist and Reed, but he was also hooked after watching Gines and Mitchelson play on film.
“He told me ‘You have two players that I want,’” Reed said.
That wouldn’t shock anyone who’s watched Gines and Mitchelson play over the last few years. They swept the player awards this year as seniors in the 1A West Conference, with Gines winning the Defensive Player of the Year award and Mitchelson taking home the Offensive Player of the Year honors.
Reed has coached both of them since they were in junior high and has no doubt that they will fit right in with the best players from the U.S. and Canada.
“They’ll compete. These two kids are special. … They could go to literally any six-man team in the country and be their horse,” he said.
However, whether it is Gines or Mitchelson or any kid that plays six-man football in Wyoming, Reed just wants to make sure they get a chance. He referenced Little Snake River Valley High School’s Riggen Myers, who is a known rival of the Pronghorns, but is also one of the names Reed will probably pass on to the CanAm coaching staff next year when Myers is a senior.
“It’s kind of neat to make sure that Wyoming kids have a chance,” Reed said. “That’s what it’s all about – making those contacts to make sure Wyoming kids can get that opportunity.”
The actual game will be played in Wakaw, Canada and the trek north will start at on June 30. Applequist and Reed, along with the Wyoming players, will be driving to Lambert, where they’ll meet the rest of the USA team and practice for five days.
July 4 will be Team USA’s last full day in the United States, and it should be a memorable one. The players will start with a full-contact intersquad scrimmage to regain the feel of game speed, before they’ll enjoy the Independence Day parade and fireworks show in Lambert.
The following day, the team will load the bus and travel the remaining seven hours to Wakaw, before the big game is played on July 6. Although the rosters aren’t finalized, it looks like Mitchelson and Gines will be joined by six players from Texas, nine from Montana, two from Nebraska, and maybe an additional Wyoming and Alabama player.
The USA team also would’ve had Dontae Garza, who led Burlington to a runner-up finish against FEHS, but he recently suffered a knee injury that will prevent him from playing.
The USA has won 18 of the 23 CanAm Bowls that have been played, but regardless of the outcome, Reed thinks it’s about way more than winning or losing.
“Like I told Lain (Mitchelson), ‘You get to play for Team USA. The only other time you get to play for Team USA is if you’re planning on making it to the Olympics,’” he said. “Yeah it’s not up to the Olympic standards, but it’s a big deal, especially to small-town kids. You get a Team USA jersey with your name on the back of it.”