SACKVILLE, N.B – This season Titan football fans will not be disappointed by having some opposing teams pack it in at half time. As a matter of fact, the local unit, which boasts a proud record of three straight provincial championships, should be forced to the limit each outing.
Finally, the New Brunswick Interscholastic Athletic Association (NBIAA) has taken a serious look at the level of play of the various entries and have put together a schedule that should result in every game being a barn burner.
The new seven-team league will consist of Saint John High Greyhounds, Riverview Royals, Moncton High Purple Knights, Fredericton Black Kats, l’Odyssee Olympiens and Leo Hayes Lions, in addition to Tantramar Titans.
Absent from last season will be Harrison Trimble Trojans, Mathieu Martin Matadors and MacNaughton Highlanders.
“I love it,” says Titan head coach Scott O’Neal. “This could be our toughest season in the past four, which means our guys will simply have to play hard on every down if we are to continue to rack up victories.”
A couple of devoted fans say they would be happy if the Titans could finish with a 5-1 record, but O’Neal will be satisfied with nothing less than six consecutive victories.
After losing their first decision in a couple of years during the 2017 season, they proceeded to run off six wins. They truly hope to extend that mark to match their previous record of 23 wins in a row.
Preseason training camp opened on Aug. 13 with daily practices from Monday to Thursday each week, running from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., and O’Neal, who is presenting a rejigged staff, says the public is always welcome to David Jardine Field.
It’s an interesting mix this season, no doubt boding well for the future. There are 10 players from each of the four grades matching that of last year.
Normally, it is those boys in the top two grades who carry the load and provide leadership. It normally requires one or two years of practice for younger players to mature and develop skills in order to move into starting positions.
Because of low enrollment numbers – the football team draws about 20 per cent of all the boys in the school – it is necessary for most to learn multiple positions and to be prepared to patrol both sides of the ball.
But O’Neal is again blessed with a solid corps of highly-skilled athletes. Seven performed admirably with the provincial U18 New Brunswick team, while others were unable to go due to work commitments. For instance, Tristan McCluskey and Simon Dean should be more than ready to provide half of a solid front line. They will be joined by first-timers Jory Parsons and Nate Boudreau.
An example of the versatility on the team, Oliver Longpre, MVP with NB U19 team, will be the primary tailback and receiver, while Lucas Cormier, who was the defensive MVP with the U18 team, will double as linebacker and receiver.
“I think you will see a well-balanced attack,” says O’Neal, “with Justin Vogels, the number one quarterback with the U18 team, putting the ball in the air more than usual.”
But the coach stressed the Titans will never get far away from their smash-mouth run-off tackle – the bread and butter call by the team for generations.
Riley Estabrooks will get the call as receiver and defensive back, while newcomers Evan Phinney and Justin Smith have shown good form and are expected to be called upon to play multiple roles.
Asked to compare the team now with last year’s at the same stage, O’Neal said he feels comfortable with the excellent balance he sees and believes fans will enjoy the better balanced attack this time.
There will be no pre-season exhibition contests but the first league outing for the local boys will at home against Saint John at noon on Saturday, Sept. 8.
Each team will play a six-game schedule, followed by playoffs. The remainder of the Titan games follow:
– Riverview at Titans on Sept. 15
– Titans at Moncton’s Rocky Stone field on Sept. 21 at 7 p.m.
– Fredericton at Tantramar on Sept. 29
– Titans at l’Odyssee on Rocky Stone Field on Oct. 4
– Titans at Leo Hayes on Oct. 19