Tantramar Regional High School head coach Scott O’Neal, shown above working with minor level players at this year’s spring training camp, says the recent announcement that three of his players will join national all-star teams reflects well on the school and what is trying to be accomplished with the local football program.
© Scott Doherty - Sackville Tribune-Post
SACKVILLE, N.B. – It is a definite “feather in the hat” for any high school football team to have one of their players named to the national all-star team – it gives their school Canada-wide exposure and shows that something right is being done at the little school located on the edge of the Tantramar marshes.
Well, if that is the case then the coaching staff of the Tantramar Titans must being a lot of things right for not one but three members have been selected to national squads.
Lucas Cormier will suit up with Canada’s Under-18 team, while Oliver Longpre and Owen O’Neal have been picked to serve on the U-16 unit.
What makes this all the more significant is that Cormier is the only player from New Brunswick to receive the call, while only two others join Longpre and O’Neal from the province.
Titan head coach Scott O’Neal is a happy camper when he admits that such recognition of his players can only reflect well on the school and what is trying to be accomplished.
Cormier is listed as a defensive back with the U-18 team, while both Longpre and Owen O’Neal are shown as playing the same role with the U-16 squad.
But local football fans will immediately think of Cormier as a quick receiver who runs intricate routes and has soft hands for receiving well thrown passes.
Coach O’Neal points out that all his players must learn to play multiple positions due to the lack of numbers. With a total school enrolment touching 400 it means a high percentage of the boys are playing football. Thus, it is a key for each player to learn more than one position and frequently several must play both sides of the ball. Part of this is due to the fact several team members are still in Grade 9 and lack the size and experience to go up against older opponents.
But Cormier is merely an example of multiple use. He is the younger bother of Dylan, who no doubt will be the starting linebacker with the Mounties this season after spending one year with the special teams, during which time he created one blocked punt. While Dylan is an outstanding player some observers predict that Lucas will go on to an equally successful career at the university level.
Coach O’Neal believes Lucas will be a key player for his team as they seek to build on their 19-game winning streak and bring home their third consecutive provincial championship. This would match the accomplishments of the Titans of the early 1980s and would be remarkable since they must compete against much larger schools, some with an enrolment approaching 2,000 students.
During his discussion of this season’s team, coach O’Neal did not even bring forth the names of Longpre and Owen O’Neal as both are just entering Grade 10. However, fans can expect to hear their names mentioned often as they will become the faces of the future.
While O’Neal plays mostly in the secondary, he no doubt will find his way over to the offense at some point. That was the route followed by older bother Aidan, who established new records last season and earned conference MVP honours. He graduated in June and joined the Mounties but must miss time after suffering a wrist injury while training in the weigh room.
Coach O’Neal says his son has the tools and desire and has come along quickly with an ability to read plays and make key tackles.
Longpre broke the mold last season by breaking into the starting lineup early in he campaign as a slotback and had some key touchdowns. He no doubt will be called upon for yeoman duties this time around. He has gained experience as a kick returner at the U16 level, can run the ball out of the tailback position and may be inserted as the team’s punter at some point.
So the Titans should be a team that must be dealt with. There is no doubt they will have a bullseye on their backs as they launch another campaign but this must be expected. They have shown little “love” to opponents during championship runs and must expect to be forced to fight for every inch of the way. But with such national level performers and a strong returning corps directed by what many consider to be the best high school coaching team in the province some good things must . . . and will happen.