Saturday, 8 June 2019

Valkyries play in honour of late coach Filteau

Saskatoon starts WWCFL playoffs Sunday at SMF Field

Justin Filteau listens into a headset during a 2017 Valkyries playoff game.
    Rookie defensive lineman Danaye Holynski received an unexpected surprise from Saskatoon Valkyries defensive position coach Justin Filteau.
    After the Valkyries blanked the Manitoba Fearless 37-0 in Winnipeg on May 26, Filteau told the team’s coaching staff that Holynski should take the team’s “Treat of the Week” award for her efforts in that game.
    The encounter with the Fearless would be the last game Filteau would coach with the Valkyries. He was one of three people who died in a plane crash just east of Medicine Hat late in the night on June 1.
    After the Valkyries team practice on Friday night at Saskatoon Minor Football Field, Holynski was named the Valkyries “Treat of the Week” award winner.
    “I’m going to keep that in my heart for sure,” said Holynski. “It means a little extra for him to say that, and that would be one of the last things he said.”
    Filteau, who was in Medicine Hat for a social function, was flying to Moose Jaw, Sask., and planned to meet up the Valkyries in Regina last Sunday for their final regular season game against the host Riot.
    The Valkyries found out about Filteau’s tragic passing before they hit the field against the Riot. The Saskatoon side took the field that day and pulled out a 22-7 victory to finish the Western Women’s Canadian Football League regular season with a 4-0 record.
Justin Filteau, left, goes to get a white board before a 2017 Valkyries game.
    The Valkyries dedicated that win and the rest of their season in Filteau’s memory. The team opens the WWCFL playoffs hosting a quarter-final contest against the Winnipeg Wolfpack (0-4) on Sunday at 1 p.m. at SMF Field.
    Holynski said it hasn’t been a normal practice week preparing for that post-season encounter with Filteau’s passing.
    “It has definitely been hard, but it is bringing our team closer than ever before,” said Holynski. “Everyone has been there for each other, and I think that is helping us get through this week together.
    “I think that is the important part.”
    Filteau, who stood 5-foot-9 and weighed 214 pounds, was born and raised in Moose Jaw and became a high school football star at A.E. Peacock Collegiate.
Justin Filteau, left, listens in during a Valkyries game timeout in May.
    After graduating from high school, Filteau moved to Saskatoon and played five seasons at linebacker for the storied Saskatoon Hilltops of the Canadian Junior Football League from 2010 to 2014.
    He helped the Hilltops win four CJFL titles in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014. Filteau was a CJFL all-Canadian all-star in that final championship campaign.
    When Filteau exhausted his eligibility with the Hilltops, he joined the University of Saskatchewan Huskies football team in the U Sports ranks for three seasons from 2015 to 2017.
    He battled injuries throughout his time with the Huskies and ultimately spent the 2017 season on the sidelines helping out the team’s coaches.
    Filteau first joined the Valkyries coaching staff as a linebackers coach in 2017. He was coaching the squad’s defensive line this season. He passed away at age 26.
Justin Filteau in action for the Hilltops in 2014.
    “He has just been such a positive guy,” said Valkyries head coach Pat Barry. “He is such a team guy.
    “He put the team first. I am really going to miss him. He was a great player.
    “He was now a great coach. He is an even better person. He was my friend, so I am going to miss him.”
    The Valkyries have received messages of support all this week, especially from the football community and the member clubs of the WWCFL.
    They were invited by the Saskatchewan Roughriders to the CFL club’s pre-season game on Thursday in Regina against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. The Valkyries attended that contest, and the Roughriders held a tribute for Filteau before falling 35-29 to the Blue Bombers.
    “It has been a bit of a tough week,” said Jaime Lammerding, who has anchored the Valkyries defensive line for all nine seasons of the team’s existence. “I think that is to be expected.
Justin Filteau in action for the Huskies in 2016.
    “I don’t think anybody expects us to be 100 per cent going through everything. The league has really kind of come around us and supported us. All the other teams, players, even the football community here in Saskatoon, we’re making our way through it by leaning on each other a lot.”
    Lammerding said everyone on the Valkyries has lots of memories of Filteau being upbeat and fun loving.
    She said he got a laugh when the players teased him with the “Filteau’s the worst” line starting back in 2017.
    Lammerding said the line came from the team’s coaches who were former Hilltops players with Filteau.
    When the Hilltops won the CJFL title in Langley, B.C., in 2014, the players started the “Filteau’s the worst” chant on the bus, when he was holding the Canadian Bowl trophy on his lap with a big grin.
    It was one of those sporadic things that happened all in the name of having fun.
    Lammerding remembered Filteau being extra energetic during what would be his final practice with the Valkyries. She said defensive coordinator Wyatt Carleton had asked for a football for a drill, and before anyone could act, Filteau jetted off to the sidelines to get a football and jetted back with just as much speed.
Danaye Holyski (#55) was propped for a weekly award by Justin Filteau.
    “That kind of uncontained energy that you always hear about, somebody just jittering, that was him that day,” said Lammerding. “He was smiling a lot, and it was good.
    “Just even before that practice we got to chat just one-on-one a little bit, because we had some time. It was a good memory to have of him.”
    Barry said the Valkyries coaches are all getting “Filteau’s the Worst” T-shirts made up for themselves. The Valkyries players gave Filteau a “Filteau’s the Worst” T-shirt during the team’s awards banquet following the 2017 campaign.
    “He just loved life, and he was just a fantastic guy,” said Barry. “The way that he giggled too it just made the whole room laugh too.
    “I’ve got some great memories of Justin.”
    The Valkyries players will being wearing “J.T.” decals on their helmets for the rest of the campaign. The team is hoping people attending Sunday’s playoff game against the Wolfpack will wear a jersey or a piece of clothing from the team or organization they associate Filteau with.
Jaime Lammerding (#21) want to make big plays to honour Justin Filteau.
    Filteau played a big role with the “Be More than a Bystandard” program with Football Saskatchewan. He coached different teams in Saskatoon’s minor football program and was on the coaching staff of Saskatchewan’s under-16 provincial team.
    The Valkyries believe playing to honour Filteau will give them an extra push to win their first WWCFL title since 2016.
    “I think it is going to drive us through every game and every play we do,” said Lammerding. “Our game (last) Sunday was tough, because it was a very raw, very new emotion.
Justin Filteau had a great sense of humour.
    “I think now we have going into our playoff games going forward we’ve had a little time to adjust. It is going to be something to drive us continuously. There is still some emotion on the back end, but just not quite raw and up front.”
    “I think we all had the drive to begin with at the beginning of the season,” said Holynski. “We have a good team this year.
    “We have talented players. I think this is just giving us even more of a drive for it. I think we can push through and do it.”

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