The Spectrum Community school Thunder is poised to take its licks as the city’s third high school football program.
As the new kid on the block, it will be a few years of growing pains before the Thunder can compete with the Mount Douglas Rams and Belmont Bulldogs.
The Thunder played its first exhibition game on June 7, a 45-8 drubbing at the hands of Belmont.
“Not bad for a group of guys who just started this spring,” said Spectrum head coach Roy Vollinger.
It was the first taste of game action for most of the 40 players who will carry the Thunder in its inaugural junior and senior team seasons.
There is no better example of what can come of the Thunder than the Mount Douglas Rams. Vollinger was behind the Rams’ startup in 1996 and got the Thunder off the ground with equipment manager Gary Ralfs.
The Thunder will compete in the AA Southern Conference of B.C.’s high school league beginning in September, while the Bulldogs and Rams will compete in the AAA Western Conference.
The Rams are currently the premier program in B.C. as reigning back-to-back AAA champions. The Bulldogs started since then, and are on the rise, jumping to AAA after a 4-1 record in AA last year.
“We do everything for the kids who are doing something for themselves,” said Vollinger, a veteran of 31 years coaching football in the area.
Vollinger beat the streets to collect the necessary $60,000 from local businesses to start the program. The Thunder will wear orange helmets, not unlike the Orange Helmet Award given to Vollinger by the B.C. Lions in 2012 for his dedication to the grassroots level of the sport.
“I’m doing it because I’m not finished coaching. I talked to many schools and they all said no. Spectrum said yes. I said ‘Great, I’ll (fundraise), but I want cheerleaders, and a marching band.’ So we’re planning on having them too,” Vollinger said.
The roster features plenty of fresh blood with a core of community players from the Victoria Spartans leading the way, left tackle Kyle Harrington, linebacker Brian Galbraith, and quarterbacks Tye Pettipiece and Jake Jess.
There's also a handful of rugby players from Spectrum's breakout season in that sport this year. But most are new to the gridiron, such as running back Noah Johnson, a “natural,” who scored Spectrum’s first touchdown against Belmont.
Johnson will be one of 14 rookies in Grade 12.
"We're only allowed ten practices in full gear. But we know the how to hit. We know the technical stuff. Now we work on putting it all together," Johnson said.
The swift moving running back is a natural for the position said Vollinger.
"He's fast, he's tough, and he's smart. He'll be great out there. I believe we'd be within two touchdowns of Belmont by the end of next season if they stayed in AA."