The new face of Bulldogs Football is Jason Lafferty.
The former assistant coach with the Alberta Golden Bears replaces Chad Hill as the head coach of the division one Carr conference team at Bellerose Composite High School.
Lafferty, 43, will also teach at Bellerose in the fall.
“I’ve always had a passion for coaching and teaching. Those are kind of the foundations of who I am,” said Lafferty, who left the Golden Bears in December after several seasons “primarily because of family reasons” with two young boys.
“I was full-time and I loved my time working with Coach Chris Morris and the rest of the program there but it was a chance for me to go in a different direction with my career.”
Lafferty found his landing spot at the home of the Bulldogs.
“The minute I met with the administration here at Bellerose it was clear to me that they were driven to support the football program,” said Lafferty, who was hired by the Capital District Minor Football Association as its executive director last month but is expected to give up the position with the new gig at Bellerose.
“Football has been special here and I think it can continue to be special. The population here in St. Albert, the athletic base we have here and the work St. Albert minor football does, everything that is going on here is really, really strong. I know Sherwood Park gets the kudos for what they’ve done the last 20 years and it’s rightfully so, but I just feel this place can be really, really special and that’s what excited me about it.
“It just checked off a lot of boxes for me, this position here and knowing the athletic director (Mike Thompson) and getting to know Jyoti Mangat, the principal, through the whole process everything just seemed to fit.”
Lafferty’s education bio includes Bachelor of Arts in Native Studies; Bachelor of Education, Major Physical Education; Master of Arts, Specializing in Coaching.
“The thing that attracted me to this position was the teaching. It allows me to get back into a career that’s really about building relationships and that’s teaching and that’s what I’m excited about,” Lafferty said. “I’m going to be working in the school and it’s paramount for any football program to have the head coach in the school even though I know others have tried to go a different direction with a community guy doing it.”
Lafferty‘s coaching resume includes the 2002-03 Peace River Pioneers as head coach (“My first spring camp there we had 11 kids”), defensive coordinator for the 2004 McNally Tigers, offensive coordinator for the 2010-12 Jasper Place Rebels, his alma mater, and with the Golden Bears coached the running backs (2005-09 and 2013-15) and receivers (2016-17).
“My style is to be me. I wouldn’t consider myself to be a yeller and a screamer. None of my coaches will be yellers or screamers but we will coach with passion and we will hold kids accountable. We are going to be disciplined. We’re going to demand a high standard from these kids and I think that’s how you do it and you build on it. I watched Coach Morris do that for five years and I’ve seen it work,” said the 2003 Football Alberta Tier III and novice coach of the year.
“But nothing matters unless I have a relationship with the kids and that’s the most important thing for me. One of the things I’m most excited about is getting to know these kids, building the relationship that we can hold them accountable and hold them to a high standard.”
The Lafferty era at Bellerose starts May 15 when spring camp kicks off.
“Goal number one is to get to know the kids, see what we have from an athletic perspective and then put them in spots where we feel we’ll be more successful,” Lafferty said. ”I’m juiced up to get on the field and that’s going to be the fun part and the guys that I’m going to have out by my side building this thing is going to be exciting too.
“My phone has been blowing up this week with guys who are excited with this opportunity here and want to join the staff,” Lafferty added. “I’m really excited about the prospects we have for our coaching staff.
“You’re only as strong as the guys around you.”
As for a junior team, numbers will dictate if the Bulldogs will remain as the only St. Albert high school with a junior program. Junior teams consist mainly of Grade 10 players.
“I would love to see us have a junior team and a senior team. There are benefits to that for sure,” Lafferty said.
The departure of Hill – the 2016 and 2017 Metro Athletics Coach of the Year in the Carr conference coached the senior Bulldogs for 10 years and was also the junior head coach from 2005 to 2014 – to coach and teach at Sturgeon Composite High School coincides with Sturgeon forming its own football team after a long association with Bellerose as a pipeline of student athletes for Bulldogs Football.
Lafferty inherits a strong crop of returning Bulldogs (”There are athletes here”) and an equally important organizational infrastructure with general manager Darryl Moroz at the controls.
However, without the Sturgeon connection and the fallout within the player ranks of the charismatic Hill resigning his position in March to pursue other career options, then resurfaced the next month as the field general for the division three Gilfillan conference Spirits, Lafferty could face some interesting challenges in his inaugural season.
“I’ve seen building across the board. I’ve been very lucky to be with Coach Morris and the building he’s done at the university and just to be a small part there was good learning on my part,” Lafferty said. “Having been part of the recruitment at the university our eyes were on St. Albert with Bellerose, as well as Paul Kane and SACHS, so I know there is big shoes to fill here and I’m excited by that opportunity to fill those shoes. I’m confident the football program here will be one that the community will absolutely be proud of. I want to do things the right way and by being in the school I think it offers me the opportunity to do the things the right way here and just continue on some of the things that Coach Hill did but also I’ve got to be me and put my own spin on it which I’m excited about.”