The Cold Lake Fighter Jets are off to the national championship, and Portage's own Cole Brydges couldn't be more proud of his team.
The receiver sustained an injury in the first week of the season but was able to make his return just in time for the playoffs. Brydges led the team in receptions and yards in the playoffs with six catches for 137 yards and two touchdowns.
"I don't think the doctors are going to be too thrilled with me. I asked if I could play during my last doctor's appointment two weeks ago, and they said no. I've played two games since," Brydges explains. "I couldn't say no to the playoffs. I love this team. They were able to step up while I was out, and we were kind of beaten up going into the playoffs, so me coming back repays the favour to the boys that stepped up while I was gone."
The Fighter Jets defeated the Airdrie Irish to become the Alberta Football League (AFL) Champions. Cold Lake is now the first team in 16 years to win back-to-back AFL titles, and they also hope to win their second straight national championship.
"It'll be a rematch from last season against the GTA All-Stars. They got better, and so did we. I think we match up well. We've been able to run the ball great all year. I expect our running backs to continue pounding the ball. Our O-line is phenomenal. That helps a lot, too. Our defence is going to be mean, as always. So, I think we match up well as long as offence can pull our weight. I'm excited."
Brydges spent the regular season on the sidelines, helping out with coaching duties, as he had previously at Portage Collegiate the last time he was recovering from an injury.
"It was really similar because I was in a cast and wasn't able to catch or do any of that stuff. It was good because our quarterback is only 17. He just graduated when school ended. I think having me on the sideline was able to help him out a little more."
He is very happy to be looked at as a leader on this squad.
"Coming into this season, I knew I was going to take on more of a leadership role. I helped out with recruiting and stuff in the offseason," says Brydges. "The group of guys that we brought in came in with one mindset, and that was to win a championship. That makes our job as leaders super easy."
Brydges says the national championship last season was held in Cold Lake, but this time they will be in enemy territory. He hopes they will return home with the trophy after the big game on September 16. The game will be streamed live on YouTube.