Despite losing several key players to graduation, head coach Scott O’Neal, shown above speaking to participants in a previous minor and high school spring training camp, will look to extend his team’s 19-game winning streak.
SACKVILLE, N.B. – Even though the back-to-back provincial champion Tantramar Titans suffered an unusually heavy personnel loss via graduation in June, football fans throughout the area will have an opportunity to watch a fresh group of dedicated athletes set about to grow their current 19-game victory streak when they host Leo Hays Lions in their debut on Saturday, Sept. 9, on David Jardine Field.
aLloydYes, no fewer than 15 members of the 40-man squad waltzed across Convocation Hall stage to accept evidence of their commitment to the classroom and many of them have moved on to post-secondary education in one form or another.
But no fewer than 11 Titans earned roles with provincial teams during the past summer, with head coach Scott O’Neal serving as line coach for the U16 group.
With this many young men prepared to carry on the Titan Pride tradition and having gained invaluable experience at the new level, fans should expect nothing less that a total team effort each time they take the field.
To be precise, five Titans – Lucas Cormier, Ryan Cadman, Riley Tower, MacKenzie Beal and Zach Lloyd– wore provincial colours in the Under 18 group and all were starters for the Titans last season. The U15 provincial team saw two Titans – Evan Phinney and Terrence Carter – in the lineup, and the U16 group had Owen O’Neal, Oliver Longpre, Tomas Allen and Arturo Moreno deJesus leading the way.
For their efforts, Longpre was presented with the MVP award for offense as the leading rusher and scorer and O’Neal was rock-solid on defense to earn the same honours on that side of the ball.
No doubt this region has become “football country” due to the fact two great teams have been operating side-by-side for the past few years. While the Titans have turned aside all challenges to claim provincial titles, going 9-0 in 2015 and 10-0 in 20l6, the Mounties have appeared in the past four Loney Bowls and a couple of national semi-final matchups.
Only a few years ago the two teams got together and brought in the local minor program, thus making it possible for all to use similar systems from the age of nine to the age of 24. An example of this cooperation is seen this season with four former Titans veterans – Aidan O’Neal, Dylan Estabrooks, Isaac Humber and Aaron Rose – becoming fresh-faced rookies with the Mounties.
Fans are hoping each may see action early on but it must be remembered only a few high school recruits have a major impact during their initial season at the higher level. But with the addition of the four rookies the Mounties will have a half dozen ex-Titans, including starting offensive lineman Ross McCormack and linebacker Dylan Cormier.
Another feature this season will see the two squads teaming up to present fans with a true double header. On Oct. 15 at Alumni Field the Titans will host perennial rivals Moncton Purple Knights. And then at 7 the Mounties will entertain Bishops Gaiters. This combination should provide supporters with plenty of football for one weekend . . . and who could miss such a production.
While coach Brady looks forward to having 90 bodies from which to choose a usual 55, coach O’Neal anticipates about 40 boys to appear. The Mounties open workouts on Aug. 11, with the Titans following close behind with sessions set to begin on Aug. 15. Practice sessions will be held every weeknight until classes begin at Tantramar with these running from 5:30 until 8 p.m.
Coach O’Neal has announced he will have a complete staff led by defensive coordinator Peter Estabrooks, special teams coordinator David Burns and assistants Joe Lafford, Charles Lafford, Ben Brown and Jordan Cormier.
The updated Titan squad is expected to have 20-25 returnees along with 15-20 rookies – perhaps a little heavy on fresh faces – but one that excites coach O’Neal as he launches in to another chapter of giving all Grade 9 prospects an opportunity to suit up and gain some valuable experience.