Full disclosure - for pretty much every single high-school football season over the past 10-15 years, the foundation of my Pascal Prognostications has been based on two key factors: 1) a knowledge of the HS talent that had played summer football (Jr Spartans, Gladiators, Northerners); and 2) a knowledge of the returning all-stars on each team.
Throw in the fact that my given scope of local sports coverage extends across the entire spectrum of athletics, making it that much easier to identify the kids that were simply very good athletes being introduced to football, and one could generally assume that the crystal ball of the fall campaign was not going to be all that hazy.
Safe to say then that entering the 2021 five-team schedule, all bets are off – not that this will stop me from having some fun and taking my best crack at figuring out the indiscernible hodge-podge that could easily play out over the course of the next eight weeks.St Charles College Cardinals: predicted finish – 4-0
In a season where offenses will almost certainly be simplified by necessity, the SCC combination that conjures up images of days gone by provides a great starting point for their return to glory.
Not only do the Cards boast what appears to be the deepest array of talent at key skills position, but they should also be able to establish a strong ground game behind the most formidable scope of linemen in the city. Coach Rob Zanatta and company will feature much of the starting roster that made their way to the 2019 NOSSA Junior final, a group that includes quarterback Josh Morin, the backfield tandem of Blake Ramalho and Tyrese Brown, as well as slotback Josh Guignard.
Beyond that, Morin can look to receivers Cody Jalbert, Nick McGee and Jordan Willmott simply to help opposing defenses honest. Standouts in the trenches at the junior level, offensive linemen Jacob Ricker and Quinton McCauley have added Kingston transfer Branson Kameka to a group that didn't need any extra help.
The defense is admittedly a tougher read, but having the ability to have D-lineman Ethan Bower, Lukas Bagwell and Owen Haw focus largely on their side of the ball (most teams in the league will have key linemen going both ways) is more than a tad advantageous.
The linebacking core is anchored by Parker Tilbury and Lo-Ellen transfer Connor Craftchick, while Owen Parsons, Greg Sitko, Tristan St Germaine and safety Parker Tardif hold down the fort in the secondary. Coming off a strong summer of GSSC soccer, Nick McGee will add kicking duties to his role as a pass threat.Lively Hawks: predicted finish – 3-1
I flip-flopped back and forth between Lively and Lo-Ellen three to four times before finally settling on the Hawks in this spot. Yes, I am putting a lot of faith in the coaching abilities of Reg Bonin – but it’s not like that crew hasn’t offered plenty of reasons to support this belief.
Few if any competing staffs have demonstrated the knack for making up for lost time quite as quickly as this group, with Bonin a master of matching raw skills with football needs, all of which will be critical with a grade 11 heavy squad.
Early signs suggest that Bennett Sobiera and Brek Morrow will split time at quarterback, with 12+ running back Alex Fleury a holdover from the 2019 senior team. Owen MacDonald will also get reps in what will often be a single back formation, as Lively continues to lead the way incorporating a passing game necessitated by three down football.
Former junior standouts Ryan Remington and Ryan Ricci show the way with a plethora of wide receivers and slotbacks – Bradley Halonen, Hughie Campbell and Keith Boothilier, just to name a few.
Like most teams, Lively will rotate the big men back and forth, likely to run behind Owen Willis and Ryan Neva, but with Ryan McLaughlin pulling double duty and Andrew Chandler and Aiden Rogers manning a smallish defensive line.
Hockey talent Jaxson Stos should be right in his element with the continuous contact that comes at linebacker, while Marshall Spry, Kolby McLean, Bryce Firman and the rest of the secondary will have to pile up some tackling stats if Lively is to hold teams to 20 or less points. The real wildcard here might be Ryan Rubic, currently with the Espanola Express (NOJHL), but an absolute game-changer, according to Bonin, on those occasions that he can dress for LDSS.Lo-Ellen Park Knights: predicted finish – 2-2
New head coach and former St Benedict Bears lineman Alex Vendramin brings a ton of enthusiasm to a team that is unpolished, can use some work and features some impressive athletes (all statements that also apply to the Confederation Chargers).
In my opinion, there is not a single player in the ranks this year that carries the football pedigree of Carter Will – all of which makes it extremely intriguing to see just how much the former JMYFL star can impact the games in his role as safety, part-time wideout and special teams weapon.
Yet another QB hoping to make a name for himself, Adam Pagan is surrounded by a competent groups of backs in Liam Conlin, Bryce Desabrais and fullback Seth Tomassini. Jaeden Delaney and Caelen Jutila join Will as receiving targets for Pagan, who may not have much decision-making time as coach Vendramin looks to groom some linemen for the future.
William Cummings and Bryden McGhee are go-to guys offensively, within the land of the bigger bodies, with Sam Nardi (DE) and Jamie Burrell (DE/LB) doing likewise defensively, though there could easily be plenty of mixing and matching.
Taylor Daniels has accepted the challenge that comes with middle linebacker, though I can easily foresee Carter Will, Cooper Fontaine and Peter Guerra all crowding the box more than a typical secondary, largely to offset what are expected to be a majority of run-oriented attacks in this league.Confederation Chargers: predicted finish – 1-3
With a lineup that looks like a who’s who of Nickel City hockey, it certainly would not shock me if the Chargers bettered my prediction with an extra win or two. There is absolutely some noteworthy athleticism at the disposal of head coach Shane Hutchinson and assistant coach Matt Mott.
Defensively, the staff expects big things from veteran lineman Wesley Brisebois, linebacker Cameron Mergaert and huge hitter Carson Shawana. Top that off with returnee Shawn Jewell and the potential that lies within Bryson Smith, Logan Carr, Austin Rioux and others, and one can understand an element of optimism that resides in Val Caron.
Dylan Paquette takes over the reins under centre and should be able to count on Clint Corbett and Troy Wilton to help move the chains. Kohen Crane and Ian Akkanen are trying to acclimatize to their roles as receivers as quickly as possible, with Seth Pellerin, Ken MacNeil and Peyton Paquette looking to provide their signal-caller with at least some time to look downfield.St Benedict Bears: predicted finish – 0-4 It’s entirely possible that coach Junior Labrosse and his defense could make me look very bad this year – especially combined with a Bears' offense that features Zach Primeau.
While there are a small handful of five year vets in camp, it’s the defensive side of the ball that features Julien Senechal and Mishakwaat McQuabbie on the line, Andrew Kilby and international student Mitsuki Nakamura at linebacker, and a secondary of Keegan Chisnell, Matthew Guerra, Liam Blanchard and Dennis Wabegijig that will need to keep the Bears competitive.
Quarterbacks Carson Harvey and Mattaeus Grossi are just cutting their teeth at the position, and while handing the ball to Isaac Julius and Brandon Salem is hardly a bad option, some balance in the form of passes to Primeau, A.J. Rondina, Shawn Huot, William McBride and Corey Huot will be needed to spell victory at St Benedict.