St Benedict still the team in beat in 2008
It’s that time of year once again. Just
days after frantic football fans everywhere glued themselves to the
nearest television set for the opening of the NFL season (sending
New England Patriot fans into serious mourning mode just hours
later), the excitement is being felt much closer to home.
Gridiron glamour of the high-school
variety kicks off at Confederation Secondary and the James Jerome
Complex today as the 2008 SDSSAA football campaign is launched. And
while some may shy away from pre-season predictions, that is certainly
not the case in this corner.
In fact, while attending a host of
practice sessions over the past two weeks at local secondary schools,
I was quite pleasantly surprised by the number of young athletes
enquiring whether the famed “Pascal Prognostications” would
appear again this year. I was even more pleased to note that they all
seem to approach my gladiator guesswork with the fun in which the
article is intended.
That being the case, and without any
further ado, here are your final standings for SDSSA Football 2008:
St Benedict Bears (6-0)
If not for a late summer “somewhere on the body” injury to star
running back Joey Martellacci, I would have absolutely no
reservations about this selection. In spite of this, the two time
defending league champions remain the team to beat.
I am not expecting Martellacci to miss
more than a game or two and the fact remains that he will be running
behind one of the league’s best offensive lines. All-star Zack
Azzola has now departed for Acadia but long-time O-linemate
Austin Roy is one of the best in the city.
The big question offensively in the land
of the Bears is how quickly the likes of incoming pivot Connor
Mackay and receiving siblings Jay and Brian Hennessy will
make St Ben fans forget the departed trio of David Cocchiarella,
Jordan Hynes and Dylan Green.
Defensively, the Bears return a
formidable and more experienced bunch as defensive end Brock
Lamarre and veterans Kirk Vendramin and Jamie Fournier
are sure to create havoc. Pound for pound one of the league's hardest
hitters, Mitch Portelance patrols the middle inside corps of
the defense while Nick Roy makes the move from the secondary to
a linebacking slot.
One time QB turned safety Taylor
Roberts gives coach Frank Rocca a set of great hands and
quick feet in the secondary, joined by veteran Steven Murray.
Both the punting and place kicking once again fall into the very
capable hands (and feet) of Jordan Sovran.
Lo-Ellen Park Knights (4-2)
Behind the Bears, there is going to be a log jam. Based on my game by
game analysis, I foresee four teams sliding in at 4-2, meaning the
league may well have to resort to a tie-breaking formula that sees
games against common opponents used to determine the second playoff
bye position. (if I'm right, that means games against St Ben's and
Lasalle will be pivotal).
No lack of star power in this group as
offensive all-stars Brett Walter (QB) and Josh Haslam
(TE) return to lead a potentially lethal attack. Mark Randa and
Blake Swann should get the chance to shine with the league’s
best natural passer at quarterback.
The threat of the passing game has the
side benefit of opening holes for a revamped backfield duo as Jessy
Bertin-Haggart and Zsolt Kocsis look to replace Kyle
Cooper and Mike Babic (who returned to Sault Ste Marie).
The offensive line is slightly
undersized, especially pitted against Lockerby and St Benedict's, but
centre Eric Searle has the experience to compensate while Grade
11 linemen Sandy Bissett is sure to have benefitted from a
summer with the Sudbury Gladiators practicing alongside Azzola and
Plenty of turnover on the other side of
the ball as Cody Jackson and Lindsay Vanderback have
worked their way into the staring D-line rotation, with Haslam
expected to see some playing time at defensive end. Captain Corey
Rysdale is back at inside linebacker for a second straight year
while football savvy head coach Kevin Ellsworth absolutely
loves what he sees in newcomer Doug Bennett (also an
accomplished lacrosse star).
Entering his fifth year with the Knights'
program, Wes Kowbasniuk provides a valued on-field presence in
the secondary, with Jeff Lavigne and James Hawkins also
looking to make an impact. The uber-athletic Haslam will also handle
the punting duties for Lo-Ellen, although Ellsworth suggest that place
kicking duties will fall to slightly more accurate Aaron Haavisto.
Plenty of size, lots of depth and no lack of skilled athletes helps to
make Lockerby Composite a contender year in and year out. There is
plenty of turnover in the Vikings backfield as Tom Mantyla
starts at QB, replacing graduating all-star Christian Sampson,
although strong-armed Lyndon Moorehouse may see action as well.
moves from slotback to running back, joined by Jon Grenier,
looking to improve on his total of almost 400 yards rushing one year
ago. With a year of summer ball under his belt, New Liskeard native
Andre Brock provides a deep threat at wide receiver while Vikings
coach Geoff Richer looks to a "slotback by committee" option to
add punch to the offensive unit.
The past few years have seen the Vikings
rank as among the biggest teams on both sides of the line and 2008 is
no different. Michael Gatien, Andrew Murray and Colton
Bonnah are entrusted to provide valuable time for Mantyla and
company on offense while the likes of Fabian Recollet, Michael
Lapierre and Andrew Bellerose are sure to make the Lockerby
defense among the stingiest in the league against the run.
It will be interesting to see if coach
Richer spots Bonnah at defensive end as well, given the strong
progress he showed this summer with the Sudbury Gladiators at the
position. Linebacking remains a strength at the home of the Vikes,
with Nathan Quinn following in the footsteps of older brother
Ben. But there is little doubt this corps would be susbstantially
bolstered if potential all-star Jordan Assinewe is able to
return from an injury sustained in the Gladiators third last game.
The secondary at Lockerby may well be
deepest across the entire region with veterans Brad Durigon and
Nick Irvine back to stabilize a unit that will feature some
outstanding young athletes. Dave Poulin is expected to handle
the bulk of the kicking duties this year.
Notre-Dame Alouettes (4-2)
The return of 2007 league MVP Eric
Roque into the fold at Notre-Dame very quickly changed the
landscape at the home of the Alouettes, providing coach Paul
Gauthier and company with the league’s most electrifying talent.
Quarterback Mitch Huneault returns for a second year as
starting signal caller, although it's a largely new group of receivers
he will be throwing to, including basketball star Jonathan Roy
and slotback Paul Cecile.
The guidance of assistant coach Gary
Ricker always pays dividends for CND and he will surely enjoy the
task of working with all-star Mario Breau and Grade 12 senior
Matt Chartrand among others. Defensively, lineman Chad
Larocque provides another veteran presence, returning for a 5th
year, and teaming with Tyler Paradis to provide a sustained
Experience is vital at middle linebacker
and the Alouettes can boast the development of Curtis Radey at
the heart of the defense. Some turnover in the secondary as coach
Gauthier leans on Justin Ouellette and Kennedy Voz to
keep things calm and controlled at the back end. With multi-sport
talent George Seresse now moved on to Laurentian, kicking
duties will fall on the shoulders of friend Jonathan Roy.
Confederation Chargers (4-2)
Brandon Dougan’s troops benefit from arguably the best schedule
of any of the top five teams, missing both Lockerby and Notre-Dame.
But no mistake, the Chargers have the talent to make some noise. Their
defensive front seven, lead by end Kyle Daoust and linemacker
Chris Ristimaki, will cause problems for most teams who plan to
live or die with the run.
Experienced re-inforcements come in the
form of Chris Burns and Matt Venne, with the likes of
Kyle Harris, Jordan Hyatt and Christopher Blouin all hoping
to make their presence felt this year. The achilles heel might well
lie in a very young secondary unit that will sorely miss the soft
hands of Matt Mott, a perennial league-leader in interceptions.
Quarterback Travis Campbell
returns for a second year as starter but will not have the benefit of
the offensive weapons he possessed one year ago at his disposal. There
is no questioning the toughness of diminutive running back Justin
Gilroy - but the elusive running back and centre-turned-fullback
Jordan Creighton have big shoes to fill in departed Mike
Switzer and Scott Faulkner.
Similar story within the receiving corps
as Jacob May returns at wide receiver while Joey Hamelin
slides to slotback. Trevor Gudrie makes the move from offensive
lineman to tight end, with Taylor Fish and Jason Walker
among those looked upon to open holes for Gilroy and mates.
St Charles Cardinals (3-3)
The Cards could easily prove to be the year’s wildcard, returning a
solid group of players that includes QB Chris Duke and
receivers Blair Roberts, Brett Toulouse and Nick Micelotta.
Behind Duke, it will be a pair of youngsters trying to make a name for
themselves as Nick Beech and Chris Rudyk are expected to
handle the bulk of the rushing duties.
The offensive line appears solid with
Mitch Chartrand, Jon Reis and Justin Belanger all returning
from one year ago, with head coach Mike Fabiilli equally
excited that hopefully none of his linemen will be called upon to
perform double duty (playing both offense and defense).
Defensively, linebacker Jacob Lynott
makes the jump from linebacker to lineman, joined by Dylan Martin
and Tyler Peroni while Eric Conrad, Quinton Baptiste and
Jayce Masson inherit the challenging tasks of continuing the
strong tradition of Cardinal linebacking excellence.
Strength in numbers might well be the
theme of the secondary with many expected to see time at cornerback,
halfback and safety, although returnees Andrew St Amour and
Stephen Freskiw should be fixtures. Ryan Grenon takes over
the kicking duties with Marco Armiento moved on to the
Lasalle Lancers (1-5)
Gone are the Lancer glory days when the team could field a top end
contender almost year after year. Worse still, Lasalle has the
unenvious task of a schedule that includes each one of the teams I
have pegged in a deadlock for second place.
The biggest challenge for the past few
years for coach Mike Derks has lied in the numbers, with the
Lancers fielding some top end talent...but just not enough of it.
Still just in Grade 11, running back Josh Cuomo will be
expected to shoulder much of the load offensively.
On the other side of the ball, defensive
end Jordan Lalonde enters his third year as a starter and
should provide some leadership for a school that had, for the longest
time, enjoyed a steady stream of talented young athletes.
Chelmsford Flyers (1-5)
If you’re a fan of Chelmsford football, circle the date on the
calendar – October 9th. Not only do the Flyers play host to the
Thursday Night Lights encounter, the opposition is the
still-burgeoning program at Lively Secondary. I’m going out on a limb
and giving the homeside a slight edge in this one.
The experience may be lacking a little on
the field but over on the sidelines, it's hard to beat long-time
Sudbury Spartan Walter Wilson's pure pashion for the game as he
takes over the coaching reigns for the 1st year league entry.
While you never want to read too much
into the spring scrimmages the team's hold in preparation of the
Junior Jamboree, the Flyers were noteworthy from the standpoint in
beling blessed with both decent numbers and some top-end athleticism.
Whether it comes together quickly enough to pick up more than one win
remains to be seen.
Lively Hawks (0-6)
By virtue of the above, the Hawks might well be doomed to a second
straight winless season. But much like the Flyers, the Hawks can hold
their own within the coaching ranks as recently assigned teacher (and
former Spartan QB) Reg Bonin joins former Sudbury Northerners
head man John Larsen in providing direction for a very young
Still, athletic quarterback Jeff Stub,
running back Justin Mantha and a handful of returning vets
should provide some memorable moments along the way.