Cole Brydges' triumphant return to the football field has just become that much sweeter.
He and the Cold Lake Fighter Jets are Alberta Football League champions after a 55-0 victory over the Airdrie Irish Football Club. This was the Portage-born wide receiver's first season back on the football field since he tore his ACL over four years ago. Brydges says he never thought this would be possible.
"After my injury, I started looking at coaching jobs and those kinds of things but I had few opportunities to come out to the Alberta league here. I chose Cold Lake, and they welcomed me with open arms," Brydges explains. "I can't say enough about this team. They put me in a great spot. They allowed me to do what I do, and the other receivers on the team opened the field so much for me. They make playing easy, especially with the way they block."
Not only is he a champion, but Brydges was also voted by his teammates as the team MVP for his Swiss-Army-knife-like approach. The Portager grabbed 20 catches for 282 yards and found the endzone four times during the regular season. He also chipped in on special teams picking up 94 yards on his only kick return of the season and adding a blocked punt to his resume.
In the championship game, Brydges made four catches, one for a touchdown (found the endzone a second time but it was called back due to a penalty), and blocked two kicks, both of which resulted in touchdowns.
The wide receiver says the team was dominant all season.
"We've excelled from the start of the year and never looked back after our first game. We were looking for a little more competition throughout the year but we just put together such a strong team that no one could really hang with us," Brydges continues. "It's an incredible feeling to be a part of a team like this. They don't come together very often."
Brydges notes this is the third time in his football career that he has hoisted a championship trophy but adds this might be the most significant.
"My first championship was when I was in Grade 9 with the high school team in Portage. I was the only Grade 9 on the team, so obviously, I didn't play a whole bunch but I learned a lot from the older guys that season. In 2015, I won with the Okanagan Sun, where I was more of a return specialist," says Brydges. "This year, I was able to touch the ball a lot on offence and just had a bigger role. That was special. I'm a team guy, so if the team needs a lot from me, that's great but if the team needs less, that's okay too. I just want to do my part, and whatever I did this year seemed to work."
While the Fighter Jets are the winners of their league, their season is not over. Cold Lake will be playing in the Senior Men's National Championship game on September 17 on their home field.
"Our gameplan is just to keep playing our game which is smash-mouth," Brydges explains. "We're in your face, talking some smack, and hitting hard. We don't stop until the whistle sounds or we hear that final horn. Teams out here haven't liked that too much but we don't care."
Anyone looking to watch Brydges and the Fighter Jets take on the GTA All Stars in the final game of the year can do so here.