Welcome back to the countdown!
Last we introduced Varsity Letters’ Big 5 Triple A preseason countdown by starting off with the No. 5 Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers of Surrey.
This week, checking in at No. 4, it’s Victoria’s Mt. Douglas Rams.
VICTORIA — Rams’ head coach Mark Townsend and company endured a tough 2016 season, losing quarterback Gideone Kremler for a large stretch of the campaign with a leg injury, then getting him back at less than full capacity in the Subway Bowl playoffs.
Ultimately, despite all of its adversities, Mt. Douglas, the most dominant program of its era, bowed out in the quarterfinals following a loss to eventual champion Terry Fox.
As a new season begins its build-up to September, Townsend looks back on the campaign past and admits it was one of his most illuminating campaigns as a head coach.
“It was a learning opportunity for all of us, especially the coaching staff, in terms of us making sure we have positions covered off,” said Townsend.
“Gideone was dynamite for the JV and the varsity,” continued Townsend of the talented, rising Grade 11 signal caller, “and sometimes you start to think players are indestructible. It really showed that I need to do a better job of making sure we’re covered off in an instance where he couldn’t play.
“We went through a few games (without Kremler) and we tried some different things,” added Townsend of a Rams team that started 2016 on a 6-0 sprint with a healthy Kremler, but hit an unprecedented three-game skid which began with a 45-19 loss on Oct. 21 to the New Westminster Hyacks. “And we did have some success and that was a great learning tool for us going forward into the new season.”
At this stage, however, as Kremler recuperates, it seems very likely that Isaiah Cardilicchia, a rising senior who spelled Kremler at times last season, would open the season as the Rams’ starting pivot.
“Gideone has had his surgery and it all depends on how his recovery goes,” said Townsend. “We have not been given a precise time frame, just a broad one in terms of he may be able to play if recovery goes to plan and there are no issues.
“If there are complications it could be put it back, so we’ve made sure we are covered off. If Gideone plays, it’s a great bonus, but we are confident with what Isaiah has done.”
Kremler passed for 1,352 and 14 TDs in seven games and 164 attempts last season at senior. As a Grade 9 in 2015, he led Mt. Douglas to the Subway Bowl title, passing for 2,030 and 25 TDs over 12 games and 240 attempts.
Cardilicchia, as well as rising Grade 11s Dante Carbone and Jacob Jennish will make up the Rams’ three-deep until further notice.
The rest of the Mt. Douglas offence?
Ben Pierik rushed for 984 yards and 12 touchdowns a season ago, and he returns as a senior behind an offensive line filled with fellow returnees.
“Ben is a big, strong kid that has been working hard in the offseason,” said Townsend. “He’s getting faster and he’s being complimented by some other very good running backs.”
Sam Mosky and Zairech Kremler will look to gain consistent carries as underclassmen in the Mt. Douglas backfield.
The Rams will feel the loss of senior receiver Josh Lucas, the leader and game-changing force in the pass-catching corps.
The versatile Carbone will be counted on as a leader among the pass catchers, as will Sebastian Hansen. Pierik who proved solid coming out of the backfield in 2016, also figures into the mix.
Which brings us to Mt. Douglas’ big equalizer.
Yes, the status of Gideone Kremler has its share of unknowns at the moment, but one thing that is not is the status of the team’s offensive and defensive lines.
Rising senior Soren Hallschmid will anchor the O-line and then show his versatility on the other side of the ball where he could team in the heart of the defence at middle linebacker with the likes of Hansen and Pierik.
There’s also fellow rising senior Jake Ounsted who will start at guard and defensive tackle, as well as centre/defensive end Phil Grohovac, another rising senior who can go both ways up front, and also looks to be the team’s kicker.
Rising Grade 11 Ivan Xu already has a full year’s experience with that group.
The defensive secondary will be led by rising senior Hayden Naylor, likely ticketed for a spot at safety.
“I was proud of the way the guys finished the season,” said Townsend. “I was happy with the way the kids had that mentality of ‘next man up.’ It spurred them on and they fought hard to the end.”
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