River Riders hand out year-end awards

Bailey Laswisse (35) stands with coach Joey Hemsworth as he accepts the 2017 award for the P.A. River Riders top receiver in the bantam division. Evan Radford/Daily Herald

If things go his way, in a few years’ time Bailey Laswisse will be making one-handed catches down the sideline for the Saskatchewan Roughriders as a starting receiver.

The 14-year-old was honoured Thursday night as the Prince Albert River Riders’ top receiver in the team’s bantam age group.

The River Riders held their annual awards night for bantam and peewee players at Carlton high school’s cafetorium, recognizing offensive players, defensive players and special accomplishments like most improved, team leadership and best special teams player.

Laswisse said he uses the Roughriders’ receivers as his inspiration, particularly the multi-skilled Duron Carter, who made a memorable, one-handed touchdown catch against Toronto in July.

Colby Baliski (64) was awarded by his coaches as the top offensive lineman of the year in the bantam division of P.A. River Riders football. Evan Radford/Daily Herald

“I feel great,” he said of winning the award.

“When I first started the season, like when I first started playing football, I just wanted to learn how to catch one-handed.

“And from my coaches teaching me how to play football, from starting to play receiver, just starting from the bottom. I just feel so happy how far I’ve made it.”

Laswisse graduates from the bantam ranks this year.

He said he wants to play for the Carlton Crusaders next year.

As his coach, Joey Hemsworth, was announcing the award Thursday night, he recalled how Laswisse always came through for him when it counted, including some spectacular sideline grabs.

Reflecting on his time as receiver with the bantam squad, Laswisse said, “sometimes it’s kind of scary when you’re going down the field and there are bigger guys than you.”

He countered that with noting the sweet feeling of putting a trash-talking defensive back in his place, just be running a successful route and catch.

Vaughn DuGray (holding plague) won most improved defensive player with the peewee River Riders for 2017. Evan Radford/Daily Herald

“Sometimes I laugh, and then I go up to them and kind of point in their face sometimes.”

Laswisse said he hopes younger kids that are interested will try football.

“It’s a fun sport. It’s good to learn it and be good at it.”

The following is a complete list of the River Riders’ award winners, organized by age group.

Peewee (ages 10-12)

Offence

Matthew Gendron memorial award (top offensive lineman): Jakob Ferguson-Dodge

Top running back: Matthew Tysiaczny

Top receiver: Sullivan Smith-Windsor

Rookie of the year: Aiden Weider

Most improved player: Samuel McCloy

Most valuable player: Matthew Tysiaczny

Defence

Top defensive lineman: Liam Ahenakew-Laliberte

Top linebacker: Landon Mudjar

Top defensive back: Ethan Campbell

Rookie of the year: Ethan Green

Most improved player: Vaughn DuGray

Most valuable player: Tazmin Smith-Windsor

Other

Most valuable special teams player: Landon Mudjar

Pride, hustle, desire (offence): Luke Zawislak

Pride, hustler, desire (defence): Kaelan LeBlanc

Max Clunie memorial award (team leadership): Scott Adamko

Bantam (ages 13-14)

Offence

Top offensive lineman: Colby Baliski

Top running back: Justin Adamko

Top receiver: Bailey Laswisse

Rookie of the year: Ethan Gee

Most valuable player: Justin Adamko

Defence

Top defensive lineman: Brennan Sevigny

Top linebacker: Matthew Kulcher

Top defensive back: Oliver Lloyd

Rookie of the year: Cole Otterson

Most valuable player: Aiden Pogorzelec

Other

Most improved player: Tristan Banting

Heart of the beast: Austin Epp

Rod Elliot team leadership award: Ryan Adamko