he incredible thing about Braden James isn't that he manages to participate in both equestrian show jumping and football - two sports on opposite ends of the sports spectrum - but that he manages to do them both well.
James donned his football gear Friday and helped the Valleyview Vikings to a 28-24 victory over the visiting Kelowna-Rutland Voodoos in a high school exhibition contest. The game was the first of the exhibition season for the Vikings, who will play the Howe Sound Sounders in Squamish on Friday, before opening the Okanagan AA Varsity season on Sept. 23 against the host Vernon Panthers.
James, a 17-year-old senior, played a big role in the victory, rushing 16 times for 97 yards and two touchdowns. He also had four tackles while playing middle linebacker.
Obviously, the boy has some talent - probably enough that he could move on to junior or post-secondary football.
But he's serious about show jumping - very serious.
"It's a lifestyle," James said of his show jumping. "We have our own barn (at Riverwind Farm); we board horses and train them."
James seems to excel at all sports - he also plays for the Kamloops Venom junior B lacrosse team - but the jumping really takes precedent.
"I'm usually away for jumping a couple of weeks a month, but not during school because I have to keep my grades up," he said. "I usually home-school second semester so I'm able to travel."
And when James says travel, he doesn't mean day trips to McLure or Logan Lake.
He has been all over North America and Europe, and he's planning to spend a couple months of the new year in California. He also will be in Ireland to look for a new horse and get in some riding.
During the football season, he spends an hour or two practising his jumping; when the cleats get hung up and he does his schooling at home, James can spend as many as four hours riding.
When you think of the men who compete in equestrian, you certainly don't get an image of a 217-pound linebacker.
But James said being big isn't a bad thing, especially not when his horse - a 10-year-old Dutch warmblood gelding - is quite tall himself.
"It actually helps you to ride the big horses well," James said of his size. "I could handle slimming down a couple pounds, though."
On the gridiron Friday, James's touchdown runs complemented touchdown runs from Valleyview quarterbacks Adam Aselstyne and Lliam Wishart.
Aselstyne scored on a three-yard plunge early, before Rutland fought back with two unconverted touchdowns for a 12-8 lead. James rumbled in from 13 yards in the second quarter to put Valleyview up 14-12, before Wishart snuck in from the one-yard line for a 20-12 lead.
In the fourth quarter, James broke away from two tacklers and scored on a 28-yard run. The Vikings would convert the touchdown for a 28-12 lead, and they would need all those points as Rutland came back with a pair of late touchdowns.
"We had great blocking," James said. "The quarterback was doing his job most of the time, both running backs, me and Dakota (Barbier), we did pretty good. The slots got around the outside and got us some yards."
Aselstyne rushed six times for 55 yards before leaving the game with an injured shoulder. Wishart went 2-for-4 passing for 53 yards, with Josh Bray his target on both receptions. Bray also picked up 29 yards on the ground.
Greg Nygren had an interception inside the Vikings 10-yard line and also picked up a sack, while Cole Cail had a sack and a forced fumble. Evan Mutrie had a team-high seven tackles and Tomas Jensen and Daylon Jones each had six tackles.
Riley Frank, who had five tackles, and Joe Castellano teamed up for another sack.
James is hoping the victory is the start of a great season. The Vikings will have to finish first or second in the seven-team Okanagan conference to qualify for players.
Once the season is over, James will have to figure out whether he wants to be a football player, a lacrosse player or a show jumper.
"I don't know yet," he admitted. "I've got to see how it works out for the next year or two and which one I succeed at most."