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Has football Titans’ dominance in league run its course?

['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.']
['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. – Is it possible the two-year long “honeymoon” could be nearing its conclusion?

This appears to be concern of many followers of Titans football as they look count no fewer than 15 due to graduate in the spring.

But head coach Scott O’Neal provides a quick comeback.

“The team we will be fielding next season will be basically the one that won the New Brunswick Peewee championship five years ago,” he noted during a recent discussion at his home. “Yes, we will be challenged to repeat what we have accomplished over the past two seasons but we should have a very good football team that will represent the school very well.”

This appears to be concern of many followers of Titans football as they look count no fewer than 15 due to graduate in the spring.

But head coach Scott O’Neal provides a quick comeback.

“The team we will be fielding next season will be basically the one that won the New Brunswick Peewee championship five years ago,” he noted during a recent discussion at his home. “Yes, we will be challenged to repeat what we have accomplished over the past two seasons but we should have a very good football team that will represent the school very well.”

One reason the team has been so successful over this period can be attributed to the minor system in Sackville. The Peewees have either won or been runner up for provincial honours for the past six or seven years and each season has seen them several players to the Titans in Grade 9.

Having these young athletes in camp and attending daily practice sessions has prepared them to step into starting positions by the time they hit Grade 10 or, at the latest, year three.

However, O’Neal is concerned the Peewees failed to reach the finals in 2016 and believes he and other football people must do more to encourage young athletes to take up the game in a serious manner. Otherwise, the TRHS Titans could fall back into the also-ran category.

The coach also strongly believes football is a special culture unlike any other sport. And he has played several varieties and knows of what he speaks.

Former Mount Allison athletic director Jack Drover often referred the “football culture” as being unique. O’Neal  agrees.

“It’s about how you train, about attitude, about regimentation,” he says.

It’s a year-long commitment to preparation for the next season where the players never stop training, hitting the weight room the day after their final game. And he believes fans throughout Tantramar have accepted this even though the sport is fairly new compared to others being offered. The Titans came into being in 1973 and it took seven years of hard knocks before they took command.

Tantramar Regional High School

It must never be forgotten that while the Titans graduate key players each season this is no different than any other school. The main difference is there is such a small population at Tantramar from which to find 40 young athletes prepared to make such a commitment.

O’Neal says he has enjoyed total support from the parents who have come to understand the demands placed on their sons in order to field a winning team. This has meant a good deal of disruption as the coaches have the boys on the field almost daily – usually five days of practice and a game although they may demand practice on a seventh day, especially if they are preparing for an especially important game.

The coach pointed out the Titans had a total of 17 rookies in the lineup during the past season and they all remained to enjoy the harvest of their hard work. Every one of these young men saw competitive game action on more than one occasion. One, Oliver Longpre, was dressed and started all 10 games, usually as a receiver.

A decision was made six years ago to eliminate the Bantam program in Sackville with the over-age Peewees joining the Titans directly. This has made it possible for the outstanding Titan coaching staff to work one-on-one with these boys, resulting in remarkable improvement. The move was agreed on by all levels of the program and appears to have paid off. At the time, there were not enough boys interested in playing to form two successful programs. Either the Titans or the Bantams would suffer and it may be recalled the high school team often went into training camp with the numbers seldom moving out of he 20s. As a result of that decision fans could look across David Jardine Field and count as many as 40 proudly wearing the Titan colours.

A growing number of Titan graduates have moved on to higher levels. You can list Dylan Cormier, Ross McCormack and Michael Bohan with the Mounties while some have moved on to other schools after learning their skills here in Sackville.

Of course the school has been fortunate in attracting outstanding mentors. O’Neal has had a long football career, including four seasons with the Mounties where he served as fullback and linebacker. He serves as offensive coordinator as well as head coach and has been successful in creating a dynamo. Peter Estabrooks has assembled a steel wall as the defensive coordinator and his resume includes playing corner with the 1984 Vanier Cup Mounties and as defensive coordinator for several years with the Mounties. The Titan defensive alignment is as good as any at this level.

And the very special teams have been streamlined by the true veteran of the staff – David Burns. He has been successful in explaining how to close seams and open lanes and how to place kicks and punts along with he multitude of schemes that only the Titans showed they had mastered. The remaining three members of the staff – Charles Lafford, Ben Brown and Jordan LeBlanc each performed their individual duties with aplomb and thus arose an all powerful team that has steamrolled over all opposition for two seasons.

Expected to be missing when camp opens next August will be Zach Cormier, Jordan Cormier, Joey Becker, Liam Robinson, Jacob Hampel, Alex Robertson, Zach Boudreau, Tomas Campbell, Isaac Humber, Eduardo Moreno de Jesus, Kyle Tower, Sam Alward, Dylan Estabrooks, Aaron Rose and Aidan O’Neal.

An impressive lineup of talent gone but not forgotten. The big question is – can this strong staff have time to develop. It will be a long off-season and only time can provide the answer – thus patience should be a virtue.

 

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