After a week away, we’re back in the high school football huddle, this time looking ahead to September with our Varsity Letters’ Big 5 AAA preseason rankings.
Triple A coaches from around the province case their votes, and thus we begin the countdown today at No. 5:
TSAWWASSEN — Remind Ray Moon about a certain back-to-back stretch of the South Delta Sun Devils’ 2018 high school football campaign, and its longtime head coach will admit that there was a little too much of the horror genre within the plot-line of a 4-3 Western Conference Triple A season.
“It does seem like we were a lot like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” Moon said when asked about the fact that his team beat North Delta’s Seaquam Seahawks by a 6-3 score last Oct. 20, then survived to beat the Notre Dame Jugglers 52-50 on Oct. 27.
“I summarize last year by saying that we might have been the best fifth-place team ever,” he continued of losing a tie-breaker for fourth with eventual Subway Bowl finalist New Westminster, and just failing to secure a late safety on an end-zone fumble-roosky in a 35-34 loss to a 7-0 Vancouver College team. “We were a good team, but there were times where we stubbed our toe.”
South Delta hopes those stumbles are a lot less common as it debuts at No. 5 in Varsity Letter’s preseason Big 5 AAA rankings.
And as a new season is set to dawn with two-a-days in Tsawwassen on Aug. 19, such issues of identity are not expected to be a problem because if you look at how the Sun Devils will line up at the skill positions, they are filled with rising senior talent.
Of course it all begins and ends at quarterback with Ben McDonald, whom we last left at B.C. Place Stadium last November, being pulled out of an eventual 48-12 Subway Bowl quarterfinal loss to Vancouver College after suffering a broken thumb on his throwing hand in the opening half of play.
“He didn’t even tell us about it, he tried to fight through it,” Moon remembers of his stoic slinger. “But now he’s looking great. His hand has fully healed and he’s looking forward to his (senior) season. Of course he was disappointed in how things ended though, because we were leading 12-0 when he got hurt.”
On the heels of Michael Calvert’s dynamic run as the team’s starting pivot through 2017, McDonald has kept an incredible heritage at the QB position alive and well at South Delta.
“He has been here since Grade 8 and he brings those leadership qualities because he is so knowledgeable,” says Moon, who feels McDonald has the same sphere of influence in the team’s locker room as rising SFU freshman Gideone Kremler had over his marvellous run at Victoria’s Mt. Douglas Secondary.
“McDonald has that presence,” says Moon. “He’s uplifting. He just brings a confidence to the huddle that says to the other players ‘We can do this.’”
Of course his most familiar targets not only know McDonald so well, but each other as well when you consider community football roots which in some cases, run nearly a decade deep.
However the Sun Devils elect to line up the rising senior slotback duo of Ethan Troniak and Evan Paterson, expect not only big plays but big plays from as fearless, athletic and tough-minded a duo as you’re apt to find in this province.
There appears to be no shortage of depth on the receiver chart, with Jackson Bailie and Luke Thodos, another pair of rising Grade 12 players, also on hand.
Rising senior Bennett Stoilen is a solid candidate to earn regular carries out of the backfield on what is sure to be a pass-first team, and Paterson, coming off another excellent rugby campaign over the weekend, will also be a big option.
The question, however, is ‘Does South Delta has enough experience and rotational numbers across its line?’
A positive is the emergence of two JV-aged offensive tackle/ defensive end-or-tackle types in rising Grade 10 players Jack Morgenthaler and Nate Guppy.
“They showed great promise and we loved what they brought last season,” said Moon. “That said, they are young and there are always going to be growing pains.”
Add rising seniors Waylon Andersen and Brett Hauser to that mix and you’ve got the foundational pieces upon which so much of the Sun Devils’ success will ride.
McDonald is expected to see spot duty in the secondary where many of the receiver-types will double, especially Troniak. As well, look for rising 11s like Evan Davies, Adam Hoegg and Cailean Oullette to populate the secondary.
Rising Grade 11 Jack Wardell will come to camp as a pass catcher whose main focus could be his defensive versatility, ranging from defensive end to anywhere in the linebacking group, the latter expected to be led by thelikes of Paterson and Stoilen.
“We’re a very athletic team and we’ve got great talent in the skill positions,” says Moon, whose team opens the season out of conference at home against PoCo’s Terry Fox Ravens on Sept. 7.
League play begins Sept. 21 at home to Vancouver College and ends Nov. 1 at Mercer Stadium in the annual Kushnir Boot against the host New Westminster Hyacks.
SOUTH DELTA SUN DEVILS
Sept. 7 vs. Terry Fox
Sept. 14 at Seaquam
Sept. 21 vs.Vancouver College*
Sept. 28 vs. Carson Graham*
Oct. 5 vs. Handsworth*
Oct. 11 at Notre Dame (Burnaby Lakes)*
Oct. 18 or 19 at Belmont*
Oc. 26 at South Delta*
Nov. 1 at New Westminster (Mercer Stadium)*
(* — indicates Western Conference league game)
(Coming Tuesday — AAA No. 4)
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