PORT COQUITLAM — When an informal coaches poll last spring installed the Terry Fox Ravens as the team to beat in 2017 by virtue of their No. 1 spot in Varsity Letters’ preseason Big 5 Triple A football rankings, head coach Martin McDonnell and the team were more than a little surprised.
Yes, the Ravens had just won an intensely emotional Subway Bowl championship final on a walk-off field goal.
Yet it was no stretch to say that heavy graduation within its talented Grade 12 ranks would take a huge toll as the roster turned around in the fall of 2017.
So what can be reasonably gleaned just three weeks into a new season, one in which the Ravens (2-1, 1-0) opened with a decisive 38-7 loss to the host Lynden (Wash.) Lions, but bounced back with a 24-14 win over Victoria’s No. 4 Mt. Douglas Rams and then a 79-0 win against the W.J. Mouat Hawks of Abbotsford?
If you ask Ravens head coach Martin McDonnell, you get the feeling that his team is balanced on a precipice, that place where on a given day, from one end of the spectrum to the other, anything is possible.
“I tend to be a bit of a pessimist,” McDonnell begins. “I think we may be a top four- or five-type team but we’re so young, our numbers are down, and we don’t have enough linemen.
“But at the same time I am cautiously optimistic,” he continued as the team prepared to face the visiting, pass-happy Kelowna Owls in an Eastern Conference test this Friday (5 p.m.) at Coquitlam’s Percy Perry Stadium. “We’ve got to keep coaching them up.” (Full weekend schedule below)
What is most clear about the current state of Terry Fox football?
From the moment quarterback Jevaun Jacobsen took to the field in tandem with fellow Grade 11 running back/receiver Jaden Severy, the Ravens were launching a two-season run with one of the most explosive offensive duos in program history.
Severy was part of the senior varsity’s B.C. title-run last season, but it’s obvious he is now a leading man for the Ravens.
A 200-metre specialist on the track, Severy broke a punt return 40 yards for the team’s only touchdown against Lynden, scored two touchdowns in the win over Mt. Douglas, then rushed for 272 yards and five touchdowns in the first half in the win over Mouat.
“He’s a sprinter but he is also a very good football player who is also now turning into a very good defensive back,” says McDonnell. “He definitely has some quicks, but he’s also so humble, so polite, so well-spoken. He’s an awesome kid.”
So too is quarterback Jacobsen, who has the same kind of game-breaking speed that Severy has.
“Wait until you see the speed of this kid,” says McDonnell. “It’s blue chip. His first score against Mouat, he just put it into a different gear. He is like Jaden in that way.”
While many Ravens make the jump to senior varsity as underclassmen, Jacobsen was more comfortable staying at the JV level last season, McDonnell reports.
“He had a great season with the junior varsity team and he definitely has the potential to be a college player,” McDonnell adds. “He is a real athlete. I think he might be a defensive back in college.”
There remain a number of key seniors like RB/LB Mason Reeves, WR/DB/K Albert Aracena and RB/DB Mitch Bye, but the strength of the team lies in how ready to contribute so many of the 17 Grade 11s on the roster are.
In fact two of the team’s very best lineman — Mike Evans and Matt Hewa Baddege — are 11s, as is RB/LB Cade Cote.
And with all of that youth, McDonnell has had to make sure that his young charges don’t let the pressures associated with a pre-season No. 1 ranking get in the way of what really matters.
“I asked a few of the kids if they knew where we were ranked to start 2006 when we won it all,” says McDonnell. “Then I told them that we weren’t even ranked to begin that year. It doesn’t matter where you star, you just have to put it all together.”
Whether that is this or potentially next season, no one knows.
What is certain is that the 2017 Ravens, as young as they may be, are learning how to carry themselves like a No. 1 team, doing their best to get better every day and in the process, growing up quickly.
THIS WEEKEND’S GAMES
AAA WESTERN CONFERENCE
3 p.m. — Notre Dame at Mt. Douglas
3:45 p.m. — Seaquam at Carson Graham
4 p.m. — South Delta at Belmont
AAA EASTERN CONFERENCE
3:15 p.m. — W.J. Mouat at Lord Tweedsmuir
5 p.m. — Kelowna at Terry Fox
7 p.m. — St. Thomas More at Centennial
2 p.m. — Rutland at South Kamloops
2 p.m. — Robert Bateman at John Barsby
3 p.m. — Nanaimo District at Pitt Meadows
7 p.m. — Eric Hamber at Westsyde
AAA WESTERN CONFERENCE
1:30 p.m. — New Westminster at Vancouver College
AAA EASTERN CONFERENCE
1:30 p.m. — Mt. Boucherie at Mission
1 p.m. — Ballenas at West Vancouver
1:30 p.m. — Argyle at Howe Sound
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