Scott O’Neal says he will really earn his “money” this season as he attempts to field another championship football team to represent Tantramar Regional High School.
“Every season we are faced with a rebuilding job,” he said during a recent discussion, “but we will be faced with a major task this time around after having graduated so many first-line players.”
But he will approach a new challenge in the same manner as past years.
With pre-season training camp days away, starting Aug. 12, the entire coaching staff will return.
“We always emphasize defence,” he said, “and develop a ball-control offence while placing a lot of attention on our special teams.”
It’s true that an explosive offence creates a good deal of excitement but when the crunch time comes, it is a tough and stingy defence that wins ball games.
O’Neal went on to point out that last June’s graduating class claimed several key players but he feels the biggest vacuum has been created by the loss of quarterback Justin Vogels.
“Justin was by far the best quarterback I have ever coached and perhaps he is the best one ever to call the signals for the Titans.”
He went on to say that Vogels had a special knack for reading defences, possessed a very strong arm and it was like having another coach on the field – he was simply an outstanding individual. This young man was recipient of the Governor General’s Award during graduation ceremonies.
Now Vogels will be in the mix for the job with the Mounties, being one of four Titan grads to move across town.
Of course, nobody will ever forget the outstanding contributions by Lucas Cormier. Ranked in the top 50 by Canadafootballchat, Cormier was highly recruited by teams right across Canada but opted to take his game to the Mounties, joining brother Dylan, a starting linebacker with the Mounties.
Cormier not only patrolled the Titan secondary with speed and a keen football sense but sparked dread in the hearts of enemy receivers who might wander into his territory. And he could just as easily line up in the slot on offence to become one of the team’s best receivers as well as a slashing ball carrier.
But O’Neal is confident he will have the talent to build a more than competent defence that will be led by a huge line and strong linebacking corps.
However, there is a serious question as to whether or not the province’s top running back will be able to play this season. Oliver Longpre sustained a serious leg injury playing for Team NB as they won the Border challenge over Nova Scotia recently, and O’Neal says he must create a system without his speedster.
But with senior members like Owen O’Neal, Riley Estabrooks, Mason Prescott, Thomas Allen, Arturo Moreno De Jesus, Colby Tower, Trevor Dulenty, Ethan Saulnier and Andrew Hess providing the leadership, O’Neal is realistic in setting goals of reaching the playoffs and having his players in better shape than any others in the province.
The Titans will host Moncton Purple Knights in the opening game on Sept. 14.
So, with the NBIAA establishing that teams will play AAA 12-man football this season, the top group will consist of Moncton, Riverview, Saint John, Leo Hayes, Fredericton and Tantramar. Each team will play each other once and will meet two of the teams once again to fill out the schedule.