Week 2: September 11-13
|ONE ON ONE: St. Mary’s Leo Hayes Lions’ Derek Broad attempts to put the moves on Sussex High Sonics’ defender Ryan Keirstead during provincial high school football league action Saturday at Leo Hayes High School. The Lions got their season off to a winning start with a come-from-behind 22-20 victory over the Sonics.|
Lions lower the boom in openerBy Mike Power
Published in the Daily Gleaner on Sept. 15
Appeared on page B3
The St. Mary's Leo Hayes Lions delivered a Sonic boom Saturday.
Lions' rookie quarterback Nathan Greenbank scored on a quarterback sneak from one yard out with less than three minutes left on the clock to lift the Lions to a come-from-behind 22-20 win over the Sonics in their New Brunswick High School Football League opener at Leo Hayes Field.
Facing third down and 11 and forced to go for it, Greenbank connected on a long pass with running back Alex Martin on a 45-yard pass and run play before calling his own number two plays later for the game winning touchdown.
Greenbank also connected with wide receiver Cody Stewart on a pair of touchdowns, a 45-yarder and a 30-yard strike as the Lions won their season opener for the second straight year. They trailed 20-7 at the half.
"We didn't really make any adjustments," said Lions' rookie head coach Rick Kelly. "We just had to settle down. There were a lot of things we were able to do that we just weren't doing...season opener nerves or whatever. We have a lot of young guys there and they just needed to calm down and focus and do what they needed to do to get the job done on a play-by-play basis. Our defence played exceptionally well."
Greenbank threw one pass that was picked off and returned for a touchdown, and the Sonics recovered a fumble leading to another. But Greenbank was able to regroup and rally the Lions.
"I think it weighed on him a little bit, but after a little bit of time, he settled down and got back into a rhythm," said Kelly. "Before the sneak, he threw that deep ball and hit Alex bang on...he caught it within an inch of the out of bounds. It was beautiful."
Kelly said he was "really proud of my guys. Down 20-7 at the half...in years past, that might have been enough to pack it in. But our guys dug deep, they stayed focused and they worked together as a team. They stayed positive and they just said "You know what...we're not done. And they put it together and came back and won. How can you not be proud of that?"
Lions are in Rothesay next Saturday to face the Kennebecasis Valley Crusaders.
In Oromocto Saturday, Blues rookie quarterback passed for five touchdowns and scored one of his own to lift the Blues to a 63-14 thrashing of the Crusaders.
Running backs Mitch Player and Cody Doak helped the Blues roll up 355 rushing yards, with Player piling up 167 yards on 17 carries and scoring one touchdown, and Doak hitting paydirt three times and adding 89 yards along the ground.
Josh Blanchard had a pair of touchdowns and booted eight converts, Andrew Harris and Rob Goodwin had the other touchdowns, grabbing passes from Rae, as the Blues rolled up 600 yards of offence against the beleagured Crusaders.
Considering how close the Blues were to extinction, making only a last minute decision to continue the program, coach Rob Wilson was pleasantly surprised by the outcomee.
"We made the decision to go with the program on Tuesday and we felt like, as of Tuesday, we were starting over," said Wilson, who sympathized with a Kennebecasis entry trying to run with 24 or 25 players.
"We were able to run on both sides of the ball, and they were beat," said Wilson. "Their kids were game, and everything, but after a while, it's like running downhill. It just snowballed on them."
Wilson lauded the effort of his own team. "The boys played well," he said.
"We ran the ball well and defensively we played very well."
Rae was pressed into service at quarterback when the projected starter, Nathan Heather, was injured in the preseason game the week before. Rae quarterbacked the bantam program at OHS for the past two seasons. His move to the varsity ranks was seamless.
Rae "had a great day," said Wilson. "We were very, very happy with him."
The Blues come to Fredericton to face the Black Kats Saturday at 1 p.m.
|RUNAWAY HUSKIE: Running back Corey O’Toole of the Hampton High Huskies battles his way through the Fredericton Black Kats defensive line during provincial high school football league action at FHS Field on Saturday. O’Toole rushed for 128 yards on 27 carries and added a pair of touchdowns as the Huskies began their season on a winning note to the tune of 43-21 over the Kats.|
Huskies run roughshod over KatsBy Bill Hunt
Published in the Daily Gleaner on Sept. 15
Appeared on page B3
The only pass Hampton Huskies quarterback Pat O'Brien completed all
day was to Fredericton High School Black Kats defensive back Tony Nash.
O'Brien put the ball in the air only four times all afternoon, but the Huskies had more than enough O'ffense, if you will.
The dynamic running duo of Mitch O'Neill and Corey O'Toole ran over the Kats, each scoring a pair of touchdowns to lead the Huskies to a come-from-behind 43-21 rout of the Kats in the New Brunswick High School Football League regular season opener for both teams at FHS Field Saturday.
Meanwhile, the Oromocto High School Blues rolled over the visiting Kennebecasis Valley Crusaders 63-14 and the St. Mary's Leo Hayes Lions came from behind to beat the Sussex Sonics 22-20 in their opener at Leo Hayes Field.
At FHS, O'Neill had 139 yards on 14 carries, including touchdown runs of 69 and seven yards; O'Toole rumbled for 128 yards on 27 carries, with touchdown runs of nine and three yards. Oh, and Peter Dickison came out of the backfield and dashed 49 yards down the sideline on Hampton's first possession of the second half, the first of three touchdowns the Huskies would score in the third quarter and 36 unanswered second half points in all.
Safety Connor Kyle picked off a Jeff Madsen pass and ran it 25 yards for another major, one of three costly interceptions the beleagured FHS quarterback threw on this day. Kats lost their home opener for the first time since 2005, when the Huskies beat them 1-0.
"It doesn't happen all that often," O'Toole said, grinning. "I'm pretty exhausted right now. But it feels good."
O'Brien doesn't mind handing things over to the backs.
"I don't mind passing, but I don't mind not passing either," he said. "It's just whatever's best for the team. We've got great running backs."
The Kats weren't half bad in their 2008 regular season debut. It was the second half that hurt them.
The game began badly: the Huskies' dynamic backfield duo marching the ball up the field on the first possession until O'Toole delivered from nine yards out.
On the Kats' first possession: a fumble, which they managed to recover, followed quickly by an interception.
"We were forced into passing a lot, and we haven't practiced yet with five receivers and one running back," said Madsen. "We were kind of making it up as we went. We had one receiver on the field who played half a season. And he's the only experienced receiver we had on the field."
It wasn't all bad: Madsen hooked up with slot back Brent Johnson on a pretty 41-yard pass-and-run play for instance. Johnson took off on a 25-yard reverse for a second quarter touchdown that gave the Kats the lead. Kicker Charles Duplesssis scored the other Kats major on a fake field goal attempt from 22 yards out in the final minute of the first half, and the Kats were looking good, leading 21-7 at the break.
It fell apart from there.
"I'm not sure (what happened)," shrugged Kats head coach Mike Casey. "The guys were up. They were pretty pleased with where they were. But it would appear in that last 30 minutes, they weren't prepared."
"I think we had it in our heads that we had it, and they just started taking over the game," said Madzen. "We made a lot of mistakes, and they capitalized on every single one." Madsen took responsibility.
"I made some really bad decisions on a couple of throws. I threw a couple of low balls too. They had good pressure and I got hit a lot. I didn't have a lot of time to set up."
While the game may not have turned on a couple of plays, there were two series' that defined it.
Hampton had taken the ball on downs at the FHS 36 and moved it inside the four, where the Kats' defence held. But on third and goal, FHS jumped offside. Hampton got it first and ten at the two; and O'Toole took it in on the next play to make it 34-21.
Kats took the kickoff and a completed pass to Tom Bowen and a facemasking call set them up first-and-10 on the Hampton 17. Stalled there with third and 10, the Kats gambled. Hampton was called for pass interference on Bowen to put FHS first and goal at the nine, and a screen to Dylan DesMeules might have reversed momentum. But the TD was negated by an FHS penalty, FHS was pushed back to the 18 instead -- and linebacker Matt Papineau of the Huskies picked Madsen's pass off on the next play.
Football Titans hammer Olympiens
|Moncton High Purple Knights Matt Simon (33) avoids a dive by Mathieu Martin Matadors’ Justin Cormier during the first quarter on the way to scoring a touchdown yesterday.|
Highlanders hammer Trojans
Ballard paces Greyhounds
Published in the Telegraph-Journal on Sept. 13
Appeared on page C7
SAINT JOHN - High school football games meant something Friday for teams in the South Western Conference as the New Brunswick Interscholastic Athletic Association season finally got underway.
In Saint John, Greyhounds backup quarterback Dallas Ballard stepped into the starting role and fired five touchdown passes as Saint John downed Harbour View 49-8 Friday.
Ballard connected with receiver Chris Tilley for three majors - 23, 30 and three yards - as well as a pair of strikes to Cassian Ferallatte for 45 and 28 yards.
Matt Doucet and Caleb Jones, who didn't start at quarterback because of an injury to his hand, still was able to run for an eight-yard score.
Dan Duplessis kicked six converts.
Blake Nice hit Brett Saunders for Harbour View's score.
Dan Duplessis kicked six conversions.
Meanwhile, Simonds opened the season with a 12-10 victory over the Rothesay Red Hawks.
Dalton Globe on a rushing touchdown and Corey Cyr 50-yard pass from Globe took care of the Simonds offence.
Globe ran for 130 yards and threw for more than 100 while Cyr caught five passes for 107 yards.
Alex Blain, with a touchdown and Chris Brooks, with a field goal, scored for Rothesay.
Today, Hampton travels to Fredericton, Sussex journeys to Leo Hayes and Kennebecasis Valley makes the trek to Oromocto.
All games start at 1 p.m.
In other action from the Eastern Conference Friday, it was Bernice MacNaughton 53, Harrison Trimble 6 and Moncton High 43 Mathieu-Martin 0.
Tough Titans tackle football Olympiens
Purple Knights vs. Matadors, Highlanders vs. Trojans in other high school actionBy Sean Hatchard
Published in the Times-Transcript on Sept. 12
Appeared on page D1
SACKVILLE - It's been over 20 years now, but Scott O'Neal never forgets the football lessons he learned alongside the Tantramar marshes.
O'Neal was a key fullback/linebacker on the Tantramar Titans' 1987 New Brunswick High School Football League championship team. Always a perennial underdog, the Titans defeated the mighty Fredericton High Black Kats 8-1 for the provincial title.
"It was David versus Goliath that year. We had a bunch of guys playing both ways and we were a very focused team. Our coaches always had us focused on the team and we were obviously hard working. We worked our butts off in practices, we worked our butts off in the games," O'Neal said this week.
"That's what the Tantramar football tradition is all about. We had coaches like Chris Porter and Mark Bohan and they were tough. It was full-contact every single day of the week. You had to be tough, that's football."
Now two decades later, O'Neal is passing on the Tantramar football tradition to another generation.
O'Neal, who went on to play five seasons with the Mount Allison Mounties, including the 1991 Vanier Cup finalist team, is in his first season as the Titans head coach.
He's replaced long-time bench boss Dave Burns, who stepped down following last season after 16 years leading the squad. Burns, who guided Tantramar to its last New Brunswick championship in 1997, remains the team's defensive coordinator.
"Those are huge shoes to fill. Dave is a very intense man and he knows his football. When Dave asked me if I wanted to do this, I told him I would take it over as long as I could get the best defensive coordinator in the province and he agreed to stay on," said O'Neal, an assistant coach with the Titans for the past six seasons.
"I just wanted to continue the tradition we have here. I would have hated to see Dave work at this for 16 years building up our program only to see it fall into the wrong hands because this is something that could spiral downhill really, really fast. It's important that we keep it going."
Tantramar (0-1) will be looking for its first win of the season tomorrow when it hosts the l'Odyssée Olympiens (0-1) in a Week 2 matchup at noon in Sackville.
In Eastern Conference games tonight, the Moncton High Purple Knights (0-0), who had an opening week bye, host the Mathieu-Martin Matadors (0-1) at 4 p.m. at Rocky Stone Memorial Field and the defending provincial champion Bernice MacNaughton Highlanders (1-0) take on the Harrison Trimble Trojans (1-0) at 7 p.m. at Rocky Stone. The Riverview High Royals (1-0) have a bye week.
The Titans, who are coming off a 43-14 road loss to Riverview High last week, had low numbers in training camp, but their roster is up to over 30 players now. Tantramar fielded nine rookie starters on offence and 10 rookie starters on defence last week.
"We've been working really hard this week. We've been focusing on conditioning and learning our assignments," said O'Neal, a 37-year-old Sackville native who is an investment advisor at Nesbitt Burns.
"We missed a lot of assignments last week with so many rookie starters, so we've had to fine tune every thing and refocus on the fundamentals."
Help will come tomorrow with the return of offensive lineman Tyrone Brine, who missed the season opener. Tantramar relies heavily on all-star receiver Mark MacDougall, who also plays halfback on defence and is the team's kicker.
"I just want to see our guys play the way I know they can. Play hard-nosed, run the ball and play strong defence. That's the Tantramar way and it's not going to change," O'Neal said.
L'Odyssée was hammered 55-0 by MacNaughton in Week 1.
The Sussex Sonics visit the Leo Hayes Lions tomorrow at 1 p.m. in Fredericton in their Southwestern Conference season opener.
|STEPPING UP: Grade 12 tight end Andrew Harris will be one of the leaders of this year’s Oromocto High School Beaver Brokerage Blues football team.||GOTCHA!: Oromocto High School Beaver Brokerage Blues’ rookie wide receiver/defensive back Josh Blanchard makes a tackle during last Saturday’s exhibition game against the St. Malachy’s Saints. The Blues host the Kennebecasis Valley Crusaders at 1 p.m. Saturday.|
Blues will need time to build a contender
Published in the Daily Gleaner on Sept. 12
Appeared on page B1
Count Oromocto High School Beaver Brokerage Blues coach Rob Wilson as one of those not on board with the brave new world of high school football.
Wilson said this week that the provincial high school football league's decision to increase the length of games by 12 minutes almost killed his program.
"Going from 48 minutes to 60 minutes of time does nothing to help the small- and middle-sized schools," Wilson said. "For us, it raised some serious concerns about safety. It benefits the teams with 35 to 45 guys dressed, the minority of teams, and will make for some very long second halves this year."
Wilson said the decision to go from four 12-minute quarters to four 15-minute periods is all about preparing athletes for the next level of the sport, that being Canadian university football.
"But how many kids does it benefit?" he said. "Will it be more kids than are put at risk playing tired, or inexperienced kids who are fed into games before they are ready because others are exhausted?"
A coach also has the option to throw in the towel and allow the clock to run straight time if a game is out of hand, another new innovation this year.
"What a nightmare that is," Wilson said. "What message do you send with that? And what about the parents? You will have one angry group asking why you threw in the towel if you do and another group mad because you risked the kid's health if you don't."
Because of the new rules, Wilson said Oromocto High School considered folding the program and didn't confirm they would be in the league until 4 p.m. Tuesday, moments before a league deadline.
"We played an exhibition game last week and it was really bad," Wilson said. "Our guys were physically and mentally exhausted in the second half and what a long half that was. We thought maybe we should just sit out the year, it was that bad.
"We had 27 guys dressed, but I would say five of them were so new to the game I wouldn't dare put them out against a big strong bunch of kids that St. Malachy's have. You would be putting them at risk. I'm not saying St. Mac's was doing anything wrong. It was our problem, we didn't have the horses to compete."
In that game, the Blues were up 14-6 at the half but lost 34-14.
"We had kids injured, we had kids just too tired to play the game at the level it needs to be played. I felt bad for them, they tried," Wilson said.
But after one final recruiting call to the student body, Wilson and his staff of Ron Squires, Dave Blanchard and Gene Heather, along with athletic director Jeff Kirkbride, decided to keep the program alive.
"And so we are playing football and we are going to do our best," Wilson said. "We intend to go out and play hard and our goal, as it has been every year, is to be better on Week 2 than Week 1 and be a lot better by Week 6 or 7 than Week 1."
Wilson has just eight players returning from the team that finished third in the west division last season with a 3-2 record and fell in the provincial semifinals to eventual champion Bernice MacNaughton High School. All six conference all-stars have graduated.
"We don't have depth at any position," Wilson said. "We had two good quarterbacks in (rookie) Jesse Rae and Nathan Heather, but Nathan is out with an injury, so Jesse is our guy. We like what he has shown us so far. He started for the bantam team last season."
Heather is a huge loss for OHS. The brother of last season's quarterback, Jordan Heather, Nathan will be out four to six weeks with a rib injury. Heather, if not quarterbacking, was the team's top receiver and also saw time on defence and punted.
The offensive backfield will now be built around Rae and six-foot, 180-pound running back Mitchell Player.
Wilson said Player will be one of his few players who won't play both offence and defence.
"I think he will prove too valuable to burn out," Wilson said. "Only if absolutely necessary will Mitch be used on defence. He will be a big part of the offence."
Rob Goodwin returns from last season and will likely be the go-to guy among receivers along with tight-end Andrew Harris. They will be looked on to stabilize the air attack.
The other key player returning is lineman Ryan Hoyt.
"Both the lines are young and inexperienced, so Ryan will be asked to really carry a load as far as leadership goes," Wilson said.
The best of a large crop of rookies besides Rae will be receiver Josh Blanchard and tackle Julien Varty, like Rae up from the town's bantam program.
The Blues first league game will be tomorrow at 1 p.m. when they host the Kennebecasis Valley High School Crusaders.
"As far as expectations, I expect to win," Wilson said. "Maybe that's just me, but I expect to go out and win every time we play. It may not seem realistic all the time but you never go out with a game plan to tie or lose. You play to win, it's the only way."
Week two will see OHS travel to Fredericton play the Black Kats. FHS hosts the Hampton Huskies while the Leo Hayes St. Mary's Lions host the Sussex Regional Sonics on Saturday, both 1 p.m. kickoffs.
|Saint John Greyhounds pivot Caleb Jones makes the transition from running back to quarterback this season. The New Brunswick Interscholastic Athletic Association’s football season gets underway Friday.|
Armed and dangerous
Published in the Telegraph-Journal on Sept. 11
Appeared on page B12
If anyone questions the throwing arm of new Saint John Greyhounds quarterback Caleb Jones, they just need to check the record book.
He last played quarterback in bantam and his presence at the high school level was highlighted by his performance at running back.
Now he's in charge of the Greyhounds' offence, a team that's expected to contend for the New Brunswick Interscholastic Athletic Association's football title.
But this summer, Jones, a talented multi-sport athlete, set a New Brunswick record in the summer - in javelin - as he won the Canadian 17-and-under championship in Sherbrooke, Que.
"It has its differences but it helps a little bit," the 6-foot-2 Jones said with a laugh on the eve of the kickoff for the Southwest Conference's regular season.
So his arm is strong enough to hit the deep route and his experience last football season as one of the Greyhounds' top offensive threats as a running back, proves he is dynamic enough to avoid the rush.
Now, head coach David Grandy hopes Jones puts it all together all season for a team eager to advance deep in the post-season.
Judging by a 20-7 victory over perennial championship contender Fredericton last week in the teams' only exhibition game, Jones and Co. are off to a great start.
"It was a good game but where it was an exhibition, you don't really know," Jones said. "The coaches are moving players around to try things out but we played very well; better than I thought we would."
Saint John last defeated Fredericton in 2004 (14-7) and for the past three years, the Greyhounds were 0-3 against the Black Kats, outscored 97-6 in the process.
So any victory over the Kats - pre-season or not - is noteworthy.
"It's only early," said Grandy, who has cautioned his players not to read too much into the pre-season victory and get ready for Friday's opener against Harbour View (Millidgeville, 4:30 p.m.).
Saint John is grouped in the South Division of the Southwest Conference with St. Malachy's, St. Stephen, Rothesay, Harbour View and Simonds for the regular season. Simonds was 0-5 in the 12-man division and the other four played in the 10-man class.
Therefore, Saint John, 5-1 in the 12-man division last year before a narrow 9-7 quarter-final loss to Oromocto ended their season, should be a favourite.
"There was some difference between the 12-man and 10-man divisions but in the past couple of years, it has gotten really close," said Jones, a close friend of Trevor Harrison, the hard throwing pivot from St. Malachy's.
Last weekend, Harrison threw for more than 500 yards in a 35-14 victory over Oromocto.
"He and I play the game a little bit differently but he is phenomenal," Jones said. "St. Mac's are going to have a great team."
Jones also umpires a lot in the city and was a baseball player through the South End Little League system.
But football has his full attention these days.
"It is a great time and I really enjoy it," he said. "Playing running back can come in handy because if I do get in trouble, I can take off running."
Grandy, despite the favoured status, is not putting anything up on the win column until the final scores are determined.
"These are high school players so you never really know what you are going to get every day," he cautioned, sounding like the coach of a favoured team.
He knows everything doesn't always go to plan.
Since winning the 10-man division provincial title in 2003, Saint John has gone 17-7-1 in the 12-man class but have only two playoff victories.
They hope to build on that this season.
"We prepare for each game as if it is a championship game with the same type of plan every game," Grandy said. "The preparation and work that goes into it is the same every year. We are just not getting over the hump."
Other key players in the team's lineup are Evan MacAuley, Chris Tilley, Justin Nason, newcomer Blake Johnston and defensive anchor Alex Hachey at middle linebacker.
In other Southwestern Conference action Friday, Simonds travels to Rothesay at 4:30 p.m. and St. Malachy's hosts St. Stephen in a rematch of last year's 10-man division final at Shamrock at 7 p.m.
Saturday, Hampton is at Fredericton, Sussex journeys to Leo Hayes and Oromocto hosts Kennebecasis Valley. They are all 1 p.m. starts.
|MULTI-DIMENSIONAL: Derek Broad of the St. Mary’s Leo Hayes High Lions figures to play a major role with the high school football team this season, both as a receiver and backup quarterback.|
New coach brings passion to Lions
Kelly | Former Black Kats’ mainstay is a northsider at heartBy Bill Hunt
Published in the Daily Gleaner on Sept. 11
Appeared on page B1
Rick Kelly feels right at home as the head coach of the St. Mary's Leo Hayes Lions varsity football team.
Officially, he's considered a rookie in the role, taking over the program from Lee Hoyt, who stepped down after leading the Lions to a 2-3 record and a fourth-place finish in the Southwest Conference a year ago.
But Kelly is not a new kid on the block when it comes to football. And because he grew up in a neighbourhood only a few blocks away from the site of Leo Hayes High School, he feels a connection with the school that runs deep.
Call him a Blue blood, if not by pedigree then as a nod to the Lions' blue and white colours and the passion he brings to them.
Kelly, who changed his name legally from Rick Godwin several years ago, was an original Fredericton High School Black Kat, playing defensive end, linebacker and some fullback for the first three FHS football teams.
"But I grew up on the north side," he said. "I'm a north side guy at heart. So when I got an opportunity to move back to Fredericton and get involved in football, I wanted to coach football on the north side. Because I just believe that these kids have great hearts and they're tough as nails."
His Lions showed both traits in their exhibition football opener against the Simonds High Seabees last Saturday, pounding out a 48-7 win over the Saint John school.
But "we've still got lots of work to do," said Kelly, who nevertheless liked what he saw from a lineup which boasts only 10 returning veterans from a year ago.
The Lions built a 34-7 halftime lead under Grade 11 quarterback Nathan Greenbank in the first half. Grade 10 QB Derek Broad worked the second half and the Lions cruised to victory. Greenbank will draw the start Saturday, while Broad goes to wide receiver. Kelly says they'll probably trade places at some point in the afternoon.
Kelly talks in Broad terms when he discusses the longterm future of the Lions. He calls Derek - whose older brother, Tom, was also a Lions' quarterback - "the future" of
Kelly wants to bring both signal-callers along but Greenbank has adapted to the system "and has shown real leadership qualities," said Kelly.
Lions kick off the six-game regular season schedule at home Saturday at 1 p.m. against the Sussex High Sonics.
He's calling on former FHS head coach and offensive co-ordinator Gary Norcott to help.
Norcott is now calling the offensive signals for the Lions.
Norcott "sees the game on a whole other level," said Kelly, and in Greenbank and Broad, he has a couple of willing students.
"Gary drew up something on the sideline and said to Derek 'Do you think you can do this?' " recalled Kelly. "He went in and did it perfectly."
The Lions are in a rebuilding mode this year, "but it seems you're always rebuilding in high school football," said Kelly, who is familiar with the concept and familiar with the duties of a head coach although this is his first season in the role with the Lions.
"I've been a head coach for about 10 years now," said Kelly, who started a high school program in Kingston, Ont., and led the team to a 6-2 record and the Eastern Division final in their first season and the league championship the second.
So he's undaunted by the task of rebuilding the Lions around a core of just 10 returning veterans.
"It's a building year every year, but we're going to work hard this year and have a good, strong team coming back next year," he said.
Kelly feels he has some solid building blocks in place already.
In the backfield, for instance, the tandem of Alex Martin and David Kennedy looked solid against Simonds. Tight end Cody Stewart provides a big and sure-handed target, and, as a three-year veteran, is one of the team leaders. Broad, Nick Jagoe and Josh Campbell provide other targets.
Kelly believes Stewart has a solid future at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport level if that's the way he chooses to go.
"He is a very good athlete and he can be a fantastic football player," said Kelly of the youngster who will also play hockey for the Lions' high school team this season.
Defensively, the Lions are counting heavily on defensive ends "Moose" Brooks and Nathan Paul. Cody Martin and Zack Lamey are the ends.
A linebacking corps of Dustin Pond, Mike Benson and Brandon Vrolyk looks solid.
Kelly encourages competition week to week to determine who starts, both offensively and defensively
Kelly believes football is about more than wins and losses. He's proof.
"I grew up on Doone Street and I come from a single parent home and my mom did a great job raising us. I have everything that I have in life because of the game of football and coaches like Donny Davis and Mike Dollimore.
"Everything that I have, I owe it to this game and the things that it taught me. And it's always been my philosophy that you need to give back.
"For me, a successful season is where, at the end of the season, we're satisfied with our performance, our kids have had a good time and they've enjoyed the game," he said.
"And they've not only enjoyed playing football, but they've come away with some life lessons. If you work on building people first and athletes second, winning is just a byproduct of that."
|KAT ON THE PROWL: Rookie running back Joon Lee of the Fredericton High School Black Kats runs away from a Saint John High defender during exhibition action last Saturday. Lee is considered one of the team’s top prospects for the upcoming season.||top kat: Returning quarterback Jeff Madsen will need to play a major role if the Fredericton High School Black Kats hope to contend in the provincial high school football league this season. Last season, the Kats advanced to the league final before losing to Bernice MacNaughton. This year’s team has a new head coach and only 16 returnees on a roster of 51.|
Kats in transition
Published in the Daily Gleaner on Sept. 10
Appeared on page B1
Mike Casey wouldn't mind being called a coaching Wiz.
Casey has taken over as head coach of the Fredericton High School Black Kats football team after Larry (Wiz) Wisniewski stepped down after more than 20 seasons on the sidelines.
The Kats have won 11 provincial titles since the program was established in 1985.
"I believe Larry started in '86 as a conditioning coach," said Casey, the team's offensive line coach last season. I've known him for years. He was a professor of mine at UNB. He taught me a lot about patience and letting the coaches coach."
Casey has been involved in football for a long time. He played a season for the UNB Red Bombers and coached with New Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame gridiron guru Ed Skiffington at Moncton High School in 1983. He also coached at FHS from 2000 to 2003 before crossing the river to coach the O-line at Leo Hayes, where son Patrick was playing, for three years.
Casey was back on the FHS sidelines last season and watched the Kats reel off seven straight wins - and outscore opponents 206-34 - before falling in the final to Moncton's Bernice MacNaughton Highlanders for the second straight November, to the tune of 23-0 no less.
The Highlanders may be the team to beat again.
"I don't mind being the underdog at all," Casey said. "I've coached on a lot of teams that didn't start off very successful and ended up being very successful.
"In 2003, I remember Donnie Davis (former head coach) being upset we only had four all-stars and we ended up winning the championship. It's like anything else," Casey said. "It comes down to whoever wants to show up on the day."
The Black Kats fell 20-7 to the visiting Saint John High Greyhounds in preseason action Saturday, but Casey isn't overly concerned by the result.
"We wanted to dress everybody and we wanted to see everybody," Casey said, "so if we had won in the end, that would have been a bonus."
FHS plays for real Saturday, hosting the Hampton High Huskies at 1 p.m. at FHS Field. The Kats handled the 'Dogs 18-4 here last September.
"Hampton is never a team that I would take lightly," said Casey, who has 16 returning players among a cast of 51.
"I don't know how we compare to last year, to be honest," he said. "We've got a good group of athletes. We've got a lot of Grade 12 players but we've got a lot of small kids too.
"There's not a lot of meat on the line - either defensive or offensive," Casey said. "But we've got nine receivers and nine or 10 DBs, so that's a pleasant change."
The captains include quarterback Jeff Madsen, receiver A.J. Durling, running back Devin Kearney, linebacker Josh Price and defensive end Nick Wolters.
Durling, the lone returning receiver, picked up a concussion in Saturday's exhibition game, though, and is doubtful for the opener. Two other key returnees, running back Dylan DesMeules and linebacker Patrick Downe, also have hockey commitments and Kearney is wearing a brace to stabilize a knee he injured playing U17 football this summer. "It hasn't slowed him down," Casey said, "but his knee is still causing him problems."
Only two players, Andy Gillingham and Chris Williams, return on the offensive line. Kyle Woodman, Kurtis Stenger and Alex Atwin are back on the D-line. Defensive backs Tony Nash and Joey Ley and RB John Morse are the other returnees.
Among rookies, new running backs Joon Lee and Jeff Khoury have impressed Casey and company, along with hard-working defensive lineman Dave Greene, defensive back Jake MacNeil, linebacker Jayden Clark - "a tough-as-nails wrestler," Casey said - and Brett Johnson and Charles DuPlessis, who are receivers and kickers.
"We've got some fast kids on defence," Casey said. "For the most part, we held our own against Saint John and I consider Saint John to be one of the better teams.
"Offensively, we'll probably be 50/50 between run and pass. We've got some good receivers, we've got a quarterback who can throw the ball and we've got some good running backs."
Casey has many helping hands to make it all work.
Jeff Taylor (offensive coordinator), O.J. Burnett and Derek Madsen (running backs) and Sheldon Downe (D-line) return to the coaching staff.
New Kats coaches include Kyle Currie (defensive coordinator), Greg Madsen and Ryan Soles (defensive backs), Dan Cote (special teams) and Zac Cann (D-line).
MacNaughton, Harrison Trimble, Riverview, Moncton High, Tantramar, Mathieu-Martin and L'Odysee form the seven-team Eastern Conference.
The South West Conference is divided into two six-team divisions. FHS is in the West with OHS, Leo Hayes, Hampton, Kennebecasis Valley and Sussex.
The South Division consists of Saint John High, Harbour View, Rothesay, St. Malachy's, St. Stephen and Simonds.
All 19 teams fall under the 12-man football umbrella after the New Brunswick Interscholastic Athletic Association dissolved the 10-man loop.
"Based on the preseason scores I've seen, any 12-team man team that thinks the (former) 10-man teams are going to lay down for them, are crazy."
The provincial final for the Ed Skiffington Trophy will be played Nov. 8 at Rocky Stone field in Moncton.
It's a long way from here to there, Casey said. "The whole season is just a process of building on what you know and getting better at what you do."