The B.C. high school football season has never started further from its home base.
Burnaby’s St. Thomas More Knights will kick-off the 2019 campaign Saturday (6 p.m.) in Hawaii as they face Honolulu’s Damien Monarchs, a tradition-laden program playing out of the state’s Div. 1 tier.
The Knights enter the campaign looking to see which players will step up to fill the roles of graduated stalwarts like lineman Sam Steele, quarterback Dario Ciccone and receiver Michael Simone.
Yet just as importantly, head coach Steve De Lazzari will have a chance to see how ready his team is to play a Damien squad already a full month into their season.
“This is going to be their fourth game of the season because they started school the first week of August,” De Lazzari told VarsityLetters.ca of the Monarchs, whose team is led by quarterback Jake Holtz (44-of-91, 695 yards, nine touchdowns).
“And they are 3-0, they are undefeated,” continued De Lazzari as the Knights prepared for their first padded practice of the trip Wednesday morning at the Damien High field. “Getting this calibre of competition, it’s an litmus test for us and we’ll see if we can meet the challenge. But the trip itself is a great bonding experience.”
The Knights will surely be led by senior Kaishaun Carter, the name brand talent within the team’s biggest strength, its offensive line. Last season, Carter was selected B.C.’s Grade 11 Defensive Player of the Year.
STM did lose standout Steele to graduation but the rest of the unit returns in tact for Grade 11 quarterback Anthony De Lazzari, and seniors Jack Wagner (h-back) and Rickey Parsons (receiver).
Carter will double as a rush end on defence, with Parsons slotting in at free safety and Wagner at an inside linebacker spot.
“Our Grade 11 group from last year is really strong, deep and athletic,” said De Lazzari.
STM players were scheduled to take an educational tour of Pearl Harbor on Friday, and the coach added that his team has experienced incredible hospitality from the Damien players.
“They will hang out with the Damien kids and make some connections and friendships and carry that over to after the game as well,” he said. “We’re pretty excited and blessed for this.”
The Knights will return home to prepare for their traditional rivalry game on Sept. 6 at Burnaby Lakes (7:30 p.m.) against the Notre Dame Jugglers.
Also that same evening, in a top-ranked Triple A clash, No. 3 Lord Tweedsmuir visits No. 4 New Westminster in a non-conference clash at Mercer Stadium (7:30 p.m.).
No. 1 Vancouver College also plays Friday, the Fighting Irish hosting the Kelowna Owls at O’Hagan Field (2 p.m.).
On Saturday, also in Triple A: No. 2 Mt. Douglas Rams host St. Francis of Calgary (2 p.m.). while Terry Fox visits No. 5 South Delta (1 p.m.) in Tsawwassen.
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