20th Anniversary Recap
The Curries, Keith and wife Brenda, helped usher the Huskers into existence in the spring of 1999.
Keith and Brenda, Billy Gray and Milt Sharpe stood in front of the BCFC executive in February and talked about their love of football and their belief that Chilliwack could support a successful junior football team.
On March 28, 1999 the Huskers were officially welcome as the newest entry in the BCFC and Canadian Junior Football League, chosen over a competing bid from the Richmond Raiders.
Jubilation yielded to reality once games started that summer as the new team stumbled its way to a 2-8 record.
The Huskers’ first year struggles were expected.
Because they didn’t exist until March, they were behind the eight ball in recruiting.
“Really, you should be recruiting in November, so we were scrambling just to fill the helmets,” Currie recalled. “We had players who hadn’t played for two or three years, and a lot of guys out of the Chilliwack Giants program. Our head coach, Dave Hayens, did the best he could given the time frame he had, and we played an exhibition game against the Vancouver Trojans.”
A player on the Trojans roster would go on to star in the Canadian Football League. On that day future B.C. Lion Paris Jackson provided a ‘welcome to the league’ moment, returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown.
“It felt like he ran through our coverage team twice,” Currie laughed. “I turned to our team manager, Jim Sache, and said, ‘I think it’s going to be a long season!’”
The Huskers got revenge and their first ever win when they faced the Trojans in a regular season game at Burnaby’s Swangard Stadium.
“We were up by a touchdown late and the defense came up strong,” Currie said. “It felt like we won the Super Bowl.”
They also beat the Victoria Rebels, and in the off-season that followed, Hames went on a recruiting binge that set the stage for the three most successful seasons in franchise history. Like current football boss Bob Reist is doing now, Hayens went shopping in Manitoba, and that’s where he found the team’s first star. Winnipeg native Matt Medwick came west in 2000 and went to work behind a revamped offensive line.
Standing six feet and weighing 200 pounds, he wasn’t terribly powerful or terribly fast, but he had outstanding vision and quick burst.
In his first season he carried the ball 246 times for a BCFC record 1,592 yards and 13 touchdowns, leading the Huskers to a 6-4 record and their first playoff berth. He only had 102 rushes the following year, but averaged 7.8 yards per carry and finished with 793 yards. Included in that total was one spectacular play that Currie remembers vividly.
“In a home game against the Abbotsford Air Force, we were backed up on our own one yard line,” he said. “The play was a handoff to Matt over left tackle. He bounced it to the outside and outran the linebackers and secondary and it’s still in the record books as the longest TD from the line of scrimmage in CJFL history.
“One hundred and nine yards.”
The Huskers had a solid defence as well, led by hard-charging linebacker Charles Bazilewich, and finished 2001 with the best record in club history, 7-3.
The franchise’s only playoff victory came when they dumped the Tri-City Bulldogs in the opening round, with Medwick nearly topping 300 yards rushing.
“Matt took the team on his back, and while he was doing that we were watching the out-of-town scoreboard, and the South Surrey Rams were beating Kelowna in the other playoff game,” Currie said. “Jim (Sache) told me the Rams were winning late in the fourth quarter and it looked like we’d be hosting the BCFC championship game in Chilliwack.
“Well, I went whipping down to Townsend Park, which is where we played at the time, and I started visualizing how that would look. We’d get the city involved. How many extra stands would we need? Yadda yadda yadda. Then I get a call from Jim who says, ‘Never mind Keith. Kelowna came back late. We’re going to the Apple Bowl.
”One week later the locals were on track to shock the Sun in the BCFC final, up 21-7 at halftime.
But Kelowna roared back to win 34-21.
The Huskers were 6-4 in their fourth season, qualifying for the playoffs for the third straight year. But when Hayens stepped down as coach and Currie stepped aside as president the team started to slide. A solid 5-5 campaign in 2003 was followed by 0-10 in 2004 and, save for a 6-4 season under Howie Zaron in 2008, the Huskers have failed to win more than three games in any season since.
From 2004 to 2017 the team went gone 17-121 and the heady days of 1999-2002 sometimes seemed like no more than a dream. Fourteen years wandering in the wilderness took its toll, but Currie let himself feel optimistic about 2018 and the team rewarded his faith with a 6-4 season and a trip back to the BCFC playoffs.