Winnipeg high school rallies behind trio of former students suiting up for Bombers in Grey Cup
'We knew ... they were going to go places,' says Raiders coach of Bombers' Harris, Demski, Oliveira
As excitement builds across Manitoba leading up to the Grey Cup Sunday, staff and students at a Winnipeg high school are rooting extra hard for three Blue Bombers.
Winnipeg's Nic Demski, Andrew Harris and Brady Oliveira all previously played high school ball for the Oak Park Raiders. Students from their alma mater came together for a boisterous but brief pep rally Friday to show the trio some love ahead of the big game.
"It shows that OP has a lot of talent and that the Bombers have a lot of talent as well," said Grade 12 student Ethan Gibson, decked out in the Raiders' mascot outfit for the rally.
Raiders coaches Stu Nixon and Chad MacKay coached all three Bomber players over the course of about a decade.
"The lesson you can learn from those three guys," Nixon told the crowd of shouting students at the rally, "is that drive was everything. It's more valuable than the talent, and each one of those guys was so incredibly driven."
Demski, Harris and Oliveira all had successful seasons as Raiders.
Harris's high school crew put up a fight but lost the high school championship in 2004, while Demski's 2010 Raiders and Oliveira's in 2015 both won.
"We knew right from the start they were going to go places," said MacKay, noting the current Raiders team looks up to the three players.
"They actually had a picture of Brady in that championship team up in the locker room this year, so they know that it's out there, they know the tradition that those guys really helped start."
That tradition resonates with Raiders' cornerback, safety and slotback Rhyland Kelly, as well as receiver Presley Solar MacKay, who feel encouraged by the examples set before them.
Both are getting looks from several Canadian university football programs, their coach said.
"Knowing that I could … be there is pretty cool to think about," said Kelly.
The East Division champion Hamilton Tiger-Cats downed the Bombers in both meetings this season and are favoured to win the Grey Cup Sunday, but scores of Oak Park students are confident about Winnipeg's chances.
The Raiders didn't win the championship this season. But win or lose, MacKay, 17, has a message for the former Raiders suiting up on Sunday.
"It's just really inspirational for the players that are playing right now," he said. "Thank you for your time at Oak Park."
Kickoff is Sunday at 5 p.m. CT in Calgary.
Watch students cheer on Demski, Harris and Oliveira: