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Falcons bulk up coaching contingent for fall football

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When high school football hopefully resumes in the fall, the Bev Facey Falcons appear more than ready for it. 

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The Falcons have been hard at work during the more than year long pandemic pause, assembling a crack coaching and supporting staff which is large enough to violate Alberta Health Services guidelines for group gatherings. 

As first outlined in The News last November, the Falcons will go with a two-man head coaching formula in the fall, with second-year head coach Tanner Stephens sharing the reins with incoming coach Jordan Filippelli. 

Stephens began coaching with the Falcons in 2012 when he guided the linebackers and was the special team’s coordinator for five seasons. Upon returning with a regular teaching gig at the school, he became head coach in 2019. 

Co-head coach and offensive coordinator Jordan Filippelli. Photo Supplied
Co-head coach and offensive coordinator Jordan Filippelli. Photo Supplied

Filippelli is new to coaching at the level, but has a very strong pigskin pedigree. The Park native had a very successful college career as an offensive lineman spanning six seasons with the University of Calgary Dinos and leading to his being drafted by the CFL’s Ottawa Redblacks in 2016. He then went on to coach the offensive line at the University of British Columbia for two seasons and did the same in a short return stint at the U of C at the start of the COVID crisis. Filippelli will also serve as offensive coordinator for Facey. 

The head coaching duo are both excited about guiding a newly-expanded coaching staff currently sitting at 13 members strong as they try to help the Falcons return to their consistent champion form after a standings slide in the last few years that saw them go just 1-6 the last time they hit the field after an 0-8 season the year before that. The Falcons had previously won the Edmonton Metro League’s top Carr Conference title an impressive nine times between 2005 and 2016. 

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“We have some good young guys coming in. It’s about bringing back the culture of Facey and to where they should be as one of the top schools in Alberta,” Filippelli said. 

“I think very highly of this staff, we have been able to add some high character people so it is a great opportunity for the coaches to be great role models for our athletes,” Stephens added.

“This coaching staff has varying degrees of coaching and playing experience so we will be able to collaborate and work together to ensure the best possible experience for the kids. It has been tricky due to COVID, but we have been able to have multiple meetings over Zoom and we can already tell we are going to have tons of fun together as a staff, which also promotes that element for the players, because first and foremost football needs to be fun for the kids. Something we wanted to focus on was having a larger coaching staff so we can really specialize on certain skill sets for the players.” 

Defensive coordinator Matthew Wilson. Photo Supplied
Defensive coordinator Matthew Wilson. Photo Supplied

A coach with 13 years of coaching experience including stints at other area high schools, Matthew Wilson will serve as defensive coordinator and run the defensive line. He has been with the Falcons since joining the teaching staff at the school in 2016. 

A big re-addition is linebackers coach Irv Loucraft, who was the head coach of the Falcons in the early 90s before continuing to coach at various levels, including taking the Scona Lords to a provincial title in 2001 and being a mainstay on Team Alberta staffs. 

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Defensive backs coach Rees Paterson. Photo Supplied
Defensive backs coach Rees Paterson. Photo Supplied

Former ABJ Scot QB and DB and Carr Conference MVP Rees Paterson will handle the defensive backs. Paterson suited up for the Edmonton Wildcats for two years before spending five seasons with York University. His football playing resume includes helping Team Canada win gold in a U-19 World Championship. 

Also with the defensive backs will be veteran coach Len Mora, who began his coaching career in California before moving to the Edmonton area. He previously coached for five years with Facey before moving on to the Edmonton Wildcats at the Junior level and has also been on staff with Football Alberta. 

Facey alumni James Riley will serve as special teams coordinator. After suiting up for the Falcons, Riley went on to play in the CJFL for the Vancouver Island Raiders for five years, winning a national championship during his stay. 

On offence, the Falcons will have two running back coaches, led by Justin Holubitsky, a player with Facey’s 2002 Tier 1 provincial championship team who has carried a clipboard with the current squad for seven years. 

He will be joined by former Sal Sabres all-star RB Brandon Stewart, who went on to play for the Edmonton Huskies and at the college level for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies and the University of Alberta Golden Bears. 

Taking care of the receivers will be Facey alum Sam Clayton, one of the top receivers in program history. His playing resume includes stints with the Huskies and the Golden Bears. 

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Andrew MacLean will handle the offensive line and long snappers. Another former Sabre, MacLean was a two-time PFC all-star with the Edmonton Huskies over five years with that program before then going on to the U of A for three more seasons. 

In addition to the coaching cadre, Kevin Robinson is back as athletic therapist, a role he has also filled with the national champion U of A Bears hockey team and with the schools football squad as well. He has also worked with the Edmonton Football Club in the CFL. 

Rounding out the group is Karen Ramsey, listed as leadership and yoga. With more than a decade already under her belt with the Falcons, Ramsey has been a constant through the (mostly) good times and the bad. 

“Karen is passionate about helping all players seeing their potential both off and on the field,” Stephens said. “She believes that being part of a football team can have a profound impact on a person’s life. While she still enjoys teaching yoga, her work around leadership has provided her great satisfaction in watching players grow and challenge themselves.” 

Ramsey has also worked with the Wildcats. 

“I’m beyond excited to work with this staff,” Stephens said of the Facey coaching collective. “Everyone has come from different programs both coaching and playing so it will be great to have multiple voices to create the best experience for the kids. Personally I am looking forward to learning and growing as coach with this staff.” 

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Now all that needs to happen is the tiny task of getting enough folks vaccinated to see the world return closer to normal come the fall and allow a football season after the bitter disappointment of not getting in a single down last year. 

“Fingers crossed that we can start in the fall because it will be an amazing feeling to get back on the field with all the athletes again when we do,” Stephens said. “I want to bring in as many good football people, actually just good people in general, into our coaching staff to work with the kids. 

“We know some of the kids just want to go out and play and have fun and have a great high school experience and we love and respect that. And we also know that there are a handful of kids who want to pursue the game after high school and we want to provide every opportunity for those kids to get there, too.” 

sjones@postmedia.com 

twitter.com/Realshanejones 

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