High school football season may still be over three months away.
Yet how far can it really be when Varsity Letters starts its annual countdown of B.C.’s best teams?
Starting today through Friday, and then starting up again on Monday, we’ll count down the Big 5 preseason B.C. Double-A rankings.
Following that, it’s on to the countdown at Triple-A.
ABBOTSFORD — The Robert Bateman Timberwolves aren’t trying to mirror the team which last season advanced all the way to the Subway Bowl B.C. Double-A championship final before losing to the Vernon Panthers.
Pieces like quarterback Logan McDonald (1,583 yards, 18 touchdowns, 65 per cent completion percentage) and Simon Fraser-bound receiver/kicker Sam Davenport don’t come around every year and they will be missed.
“But we have some good pieces returning,” says Wolves’ head coach David Mills, whose 2019 charges, one off-season removed from a second-place finish, will be set to start a new season this September right back in the thick of the provincial rankings at No. 5 in Varsity Letters’ B.C Double A preseason rankings.
“I think that whole experience, even for some of the Grade 10s who were along for the ride, was great,” continued Mills. “It will be different. We won’t have Logan and all of those receivers, but this group is bigger and more run-focused and I think defensively, very strong.”
Speaking about that defence, returning the 2018 Eastern Conference Defensive MVP is not a bad place to start, and that is only half the story for Bateman’s 5-foot-10, 200-pound rising senior running back Phoenix Moller.
Already slated to see time this summer with Team B.C. at linebacker, Moller is energy personified and will be looked upon as a go-to force in the run-first offence.
“The kid is a little ball of muscle,” begins Mills of Moller, currently starring for Bateman’s rugby team. “He bench-presses 300 pounds and he squats well over 400. It’s safe to say our offence and defence will revolve around Phoenix in 2019.”
Moving into McDonald’s spot at quarterback will be rising senior Ty Martens, who at 6-foot-1 and 175 pounds will also man the free safety spot on defence.
Last season, Martens was a stand-out receiver, yet in a game against Samuel Robertson, he flashed all the signs of being able to transition to becoming the team’s starting pivot this season.
In that game, a 57-0 Wolves’ win, Martens caught a pair of touchdown passes, but also threw for a pair of scores as well, capping things on defence with an interception.
“He has a strong arm and is a good athlete so you can expect him to be the counter to Phoenix Moller in the run game,” said Mills. “Expect to see a lot of read option and RPO (run-pass option) type plays.”
Up front, the rising star along both lines might well be rising Grade 11 Connor Dueck, a 6-foot-1, 225 pounder who as a Grade 10 was a two-way starter at the tackle for a Subway Bowl finalist.
“I expect him to be a key piece on both lines,” said Mills. “To go in and start last year as a Grade 10 was impressive and because he is bigger, faster and stronger, we expect him to take over a bit and be a force.”
With some good depth coming up front along the offensive line from the JV ranks, Mills is likely to move 5-foot-11, 185-pound rising senior Jack Weinkauf into the backfield, taking advantage of his agressive blocking ability as a fullback-type in concert with Moller.
Of course, Weinkauf will team with Moller as the heart of the Bateman linebacking core.
Yes, the changes brought by graduation are prevalent throughout the roster, as they are with so many teams.
In Bateman’s case, it’s a case of re-tooling to best reflect the skills of the returning group.
And make no mistake, those returnees can’t put a price on the value of the experience they gained over a 2018 season that ended in the title game at B.C. Place.
“They saw leadership in action,” Mills says. “They saw guys who worked hard, took it seriously and committed themselves. The results of what happens when you do all of that? It’s leading by example.”
This fall, it’s a new group of seniors ready to take their turn doing exactly the same thing.
ROBERT BATEMAN TIMBERWOLVES
Week 1 vs. Sullivan Heights (Sept. 6)
Week 2 at W.J. Mouat (Sept. 13)
Week 3 at Ballenas
Week 4 vs. South Kamloops
Week 5 at Pitt Meadows*
Week 6 vs. Langley*
Week 7 at Frank Hurt*
Week 8 at Holy Cross*
Week 9 vs. G.W. Graham*
(dates, times not yet full finalized, * indicates Eastern Conference league game)
(FRIDAY — Meet B.C. Double A No. 4).
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