Over the years the Rebels football club has brought in dozens of players from outside Greater Victoria to bolster the lineup.
The strategy has worked well some years, but in others it contributed to a lack of team chemistry, with some newcomers never quite connecting with local players who have played with or against each other through their developmental years.
To help rebuild the team-first mentality, the Westshore Rebels introduced co- head coaches to guide what will be a group of mostly local players for the 2014 B.C. Junior Football League season.
Tom Fong, defensive co-ordinator for both the Rebels and the Mount Douglas Rams last year, has been elevated to the top job. He’ll share the load with Edmonton native Andrew Axhorn, who played and coached in the amateur Alberta Football League and brings a ton of positive energy to the club.
“I’m so passionate about football,” said Axhorn, who played quarterback, running back and defensive back at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia. “Players see it and they feel it. Hopefully I’ll help get them to bring that passion out as well.”
The 2-8 Rebels struggled on and off the field in 2013, with a lack of discipline in some individuals creating a rift.
Axhorn, 35, has “zero tolerance for negative attitudes and bad behaviour.” He hopes to instill in his players a belief that “this is a football team, not a social team. We’re not here to party, we’re here to present ourselves in a respectable manner and represent our community well.”
Fong, who has played and coached in Victoria at virtually all levels, said he believes the players coaches and staff can combine to bring the program back to its former glory; “to be proud to say you’re a Rebel.”
Based on what he’s seen in optional workouts and from the list of players committed to coming back, the team has what it takes to be competitive this season and build for the future, he said.
Running back/fullback Darcy Cherneff, an 18-year-old former Belmont Brave, hopes to be a key part of the Rebels’ offence this summer. He spent part of last season with the club, but notes there were definitely issues.
“Last year we had a big problem with team chemistry. Not everybody was on the same page and the results showed on the field,” he said.
Cherneff figures a largely local lineup will help improve the feel around the team. He also has a good feeling about the dual head coaches.
“Both of them have very different personalities. Axhorn is upbeat and joking around and coach Fong is more of a serious kind of guy.”
The two-coach scenario was settled on due to other commitments both men have outside the team. Fong is expected to handle the defence and Axhorn the offence when both are on hand, but each plans on being familiar with the other side of the ball for when their counterpart is absent.
The team will hold its spring camp at the end of this month.
The Rebels open the season July 26 in Kamloops then host the Vancouver Island Raiders in their home opener Aug. 2 at Westhills Stadium.