He sits top five all-time in Timberwolves Men’s soccer goals, assists, points, shots, and starts, and is top of the list in games played in a UNBC uniform. But Cheona Edzerza knows that there are things more important than all that. The fifth-year forward has spent the past three summers fighting forest fires, including the devastating blazes that tore through much of British Columbia this year.
“It was busier this year, with all the fires down south,” he said. “I am glad it’s over and I’m back with the team. I really appreciate that now.
Edzerza called Chetwynd home for the summer, and says the grind of a soccer season is tough, but not nearly as gruelling as the forest fire fighting demands.
“It’s a 6 a.m. start, and then you’re on the fire until 7:30 p.m.. You get off around 9 p.m., get to bed, and back up the next day at 6 a.m.”
The native of Prince George says he and his fellow firefighters understood the impact of the wildfires this summer. At times, he says, it can be a thankless spot. At others, Edzerza and his crew were feeling the appreciation of the public.
“When we were here in Prince George for a couple weeks, people would come up to you and thank you for what you’re doing in the community. They see you fighting these fires, and putting in a lot of hours. It was nice to be valued and appreciated for what we were doing.”
As for similarities between the firefighting world and soccer world? Edzerza says there are few, but those that exist are clear.
“Teamwork. Everyone has to work together and pull their weight. On the fire line, there is a ton of gear, and a ton of responsibilities. If one person is slacking, everyone else has to work extra hard. It is the same thing on the soccer field.
In his final season of University soccer, Edzerza is no stranger to the record books. Each game he plays adds to his record for most matches played in UNBC Canada West history.
“I was part of our first team in CIS (U Sports), so I guess I had the perfect time to start playing,” he said. “I like being one of the main contributors to the team.”
With only a handful of games remaining on his home field, Edzerza is trying to make the most of his time. He has seen ups and downs with the program, he has seen the frontlines of devastating fires, and now he wants to see the UNBC Timberwolves Men’s soccer team qualify for the Canada West playoffs.
“I’m not putting pressure on myself to score goals, I am just trying to not have any regrets after the season.”
“I have played a lot of years with this team, and I am just really appreciating the fact that I am here, and have one more chance to prove that Prince George can play some soccer.”