High school football season kicks off | OHS grid Blues still a work in progress
By MIKE POWER
Published Saturday September 8th, 2007
Appeared on page B1
The Oromocto High School football program knows both the pros and cons of their tie to the military community in the town of Oromocto.
In fact those pros and cons will be on display this afternoon when the Blues, now known as the Beaver Brokerage Blues with a new sponsor, host the Leo Hayes Lions at 1 p.m. at MacKenzie Field. The Fredericton High School Black Kats are in Hampton to take on the Huskies this afternoon as well.
There were three Friday games on the league schedule, with Saint John facing Kennebecasis Valley Crusaders, Riverview Royals facing Moncton and Harrison Trimble Trojans up against Odyssee Olympians.
Locally though, it begins in earnest this afternoon at 1 p.m. when the Lions, 0-7 last season, take on the Blues, who were 2-5 a year ago.
OHS did earn a playoff berth but exited quickly, losing to Fredericton High School 26-0.
The game will have a homecoming theme but not for former players instead it will be for members of the armed force recently returned from Afghanistan.
The Blues aren't sure where they're going just yet, but they hope it's upward. A week ago, the coaches weren't even sure who they would have to fill out their new look uniforms with the traditional blue trimmed with a yellow ribbon to show support for the Canadian troops still serving overseas.
Many players weren't available for practice prior to school starting because the military uses a "block leave" system, sending large groups on vacation late in the summer. Many of those families had members of the football team in the family photo. Things were a little bit later than usual this summer because some only recently returned from the Afghanistan mission.
But head coach Rob Wilson likes the look of what he has seen. Now he just needs time to put them all on the same page of the playbook. "I think I have about 10 returning seniors, which is pretty good because last year I just had four," Wilson said. "So actually I'm pretty excited to have ten, and to be honest they are a real good solid group of guys." The one aspect Wilson knows about is offence.
Last year, even when all else failed the Blues could score, and at times score a lot. Last year, for instance, they scored 34 points in their lone meeting against Leo Hayes.
Air Jordan returns, featuring rifle armed quarterback Jordan Heather throwing to veteran receivers Jordan Richards, Chris Hillier and running back Jordan Gardiner. Also back is the offensive line that needs to protect the slightly built Heather.
"That was a very young group on offence last year," Wilson said. "It showed at times. We really could score but in some games we they would just vanish. They did pretty well as a group of grade 11 kids, but now with that year under their belts we have good reason to be excited."
The great unknown is the Blues defence. Once a formidable unit known as the Blue Curtain, it's now very much a new curtain.
"It's a brand new group for the most part," Wilson said. "We will move Jordan Gardiner to linebacker where he did really well at the end of last season, that will actually be his priority. He will combine with (all-star linebacker) Matt Harmon to anchor us.
"Beyond that we will be doing a lot of mixing and matching and after to have some of the O-line guys doing double duty on defence. That's not ideal but it's our best option at this point in the season."
The Oromocto bantam team has been a pipeline of talent over the past three seasons for the Blues but according to Wilson that team has only graduated "five or six" players to the high school program this time around.
"It's a cycle, you can't get 12 guys every year," Wilson said. "Beyond that our new guys are people who have played the game at some other time or some other place. What we are missing this year is the kids from the school who are athletes involved in another sport who come out and surprise us. We don't have any of those kids this year."
Wilson has a total of 28 kids in uniform of which he says "we actually can use 24 of them, we have others that just aren't ready yet." Wilson is both realistic and optimistic as he looks ahead.
"I will tell our guys we aren't going to come out of the gate as one of the better teams in the province," he said. "But we will be a very good team by the time the season ends.
It's just the way this team is built. Give me 20 athletes and we can field a competitive team. Well we have 20 athletes."
The Lions' home opener doesn't come up until Sept 22 when they host the Simonds Seabees of Saint John.
The perrenial powerhouse Black Kats are stray Kats even longer: their home opener doesn't come up until Week 4, Sept. 29 when they also host the Seabees.
Highlanders set to defend title
High school football season kicks off with games today, tomorrow
By Sean Hatchard
Times & Transcript Staff
Published Friday September 7th, 2007
Appeared on page D3
In their short history in the New Brunswick High School Football League, the Bernice MacNaughton Highlanders have always managed to keep winning even when they're supposed to be rebuilding.
The Highlanders have never missed the playoffs since they joined the league's 12-man division in 2002. They've won the New Brunswick championship twice and reached the league final on another occasion.
"I would give a lot of the credit to our bantam program," Bernice MacNaughton head coach Ed Wasson said this week.
"They've had the same coaching staff, more or less, for the last five years and produce good players for us. The learning curve is much shorter with the rookies they send up to us because we work together."
The Highlanders enter the 2007 season with 18 players back from last year's team, which defeated the Fredericton High Black Kats 10-7 in the provincial championship game.
Wasson will also have 24 newcomers -- most are graduates of the Highlanders bantam team -- who will be introduced to high school football this fall.
"It's high school football, so 50 per cent of your team is going to be new each year. There's always a new set of challenges you have to overcome if you're going to win," the head coach said.
"This year we have 24 new players we're trying to teach things and we have 18 players back who we are trying to move around to put out the best football team we can."
The 2007 season kicks off tonight with a pair of games at Rocky Stone Memorial Field. The Moncton High Purple Knights host the Riverview High Royals at 4 p.m., followed by the Harrison Trimble Trojans and L'Odyssée Olympiens at 7 p.m.
MacNaughton begins defence of its New Brunswick title tomorrow when it visits the Tantramar Titans at 1 p.m. in Sackville.
The Eastern Conference features MacNaughton, Moncton High, Harrison Trimble, Riverview High, L'Odyssée and the Mathieu-Martin Matadors. The Matadors, who have an opening week bye, return after a two-year absence.
The Western Conference includes Fredericton High, Leo Hayes Lions, Oromocto High Blues, Saint John High Greyhounds, Simonds Seabees, Hampton High Huskies and Kennebecasis Valley Crusaders.
MacNaughton was an underdog to beat Fredericton High for the last year's crown even before four of its top players were injured in a serious car accident four days before the game.
But three of the players returned in time for the game and running back K.J. MacNeil, the most seriously injured of the foursome, watched from the sidelines as the Highlanders won their second New Brunswick championship in three years.
"I think it just restored the faith in what we're doing as a coaching staff. To see what the kids were able to go through and to come out of it the way they did was really nice," Wasson said.
"The first championship was more of a relief. I remember thinking 'I can't believe we did that.' Last year we were able to watch the kids going nuts and it made it even better to see how much it meant to the kids."
Wasson expects his team to rely heavily on its defence this season.
Eight of the 12 defensive starters are back from last season, including linebacker Ed McNally, who was named the defensive player of the game in the provincial final.
Other key players include quarterback Scott Kelly, running back Dylan Hollohan, defensive end Ben Lass, cornerback Corbin MacLean and halfback Mitch Caissie.
Meanwhile, the J.M.A. Armstrong Cougars will play out of the 10-man division. They host the Rothesay High Redhawks tomorrow at 1 p.m. in Salisbury.
Both the 12-man and 10-man New Brunswick championship games will be played at Rocky Stone Nov. 10, for the second straight year.
Moncton High Purple Knights fullback Adam Proud carries the ball up field during practice yesterday.
It’s football time again
Published Wednesday September 5th, 2007
Appeared on page d1
Action in the New Brunswick High School Football League kicks off Friday. The Knights meet the Riverview High Royals at 4 p.m. at Rocky Stone Memorial Field. Harrison Trimble Trojans and L'Odyssée Olympiens clash at 7 p.m., also at Rocky Stone. On Saturday, the defending champion MacNaughton Highlanders visit the Tantramar Titans at 1 p.m. in Sackville.