We are back to our preseason countdown. After checking in with No. 5 Lord Tweedsmuir and No. 4 Mt. Douglas it’s time to take a look at No. 3 South Delta.
TSAWWASSEN — It’s a preseason filled with change for the South Delta Sun Devils football team.
Huge losses at the top end of the rotation to both its offensive and defensive lines, an opportunity for someone to grab the starting running back spot, and a plethora of rising underclassmen coming from the community South Delta bantam Rams.
There’s a ton of weighty questions right there alone for head coach Ray Moon, who himself is just coming off major off-season knee surgery.
But perhaps the biggest change of all is that, after this season, the Sun Devils will no longer be fueled by its community feeder program.
According to Moon, a significant drop in the number of competitive teams at the bantam age division have forced the Sun Devils to start their own junior varsity team this season.
“It’s been a pleasant distraction for me,” says Moon, who spent part of last week in hospital for his knee surgery. “It’s just like starting an upstart program, trying to get equipment and coaches.”
Yet while there is change, South Delta will likely not skip a beat from last season, especially with senior quarterback Michael Calvert ready to step under centre as perhaps the most dynamic offensive presence in the province.
Last season, as a Grade 11, Calvert emerged as a blue-chip slinger, throwing for 1,706 yards and 21 touchdowns against just four interceptions in the nine-game regular season.
Yet it seemed he was just as dangerous along the ground for a South Delta team which did not have a consistent threat at running back due to the injury woes (ankle) suffered by do-it-all senior superstar Grant McDonald, whom Moon figures was healthy for only about six games last season and who was not able to play much on offence upon his return for the playoffs.
McDonald, one of the all-time South Delta greats, begins an NCAA Div. 1 career at the University of Maine.
“The part that surprised us most about Calvert was how he could turn a broken play in a big gainer,” marvelled Moon. “Some of the runs he broke were 40-to-50 yards and lot of teams didn’t have an answer for that.”
Indeed, Calvert’s scrambles were at times breathtaking, and when the damage was totalled, his 881 yards along the ground (for nine touchdowns) averaged 98 yards a game and almost 14 yards per carry.
Yet that’s not to lessen any of the impact he had as a passer, especially to fellow rising seniors Billy Matwichyna and Doug Jameson.
“We call them the Three Amigos,” said Moon, “because they have been playing together for the past six years.”
Matwichyna caught 33 passes for 748 yards and 12 touchdowns while Jameson hauled in 36 passes for 626 yards and six scores.
Moon is also high on a pair of rising senior receiver in 6-foot-4 Max Stalling and speedster Matt Porteous.
In the backfield, rising Grade 11 Andrew Kraft, third on the team in tackles as a JV-aged player last season at defensive end, could plug in as the team’s top running back.
“We would liked to have run more, but Michael’s broken plays kind of became our runs,” said Moon whose Sun Devils reeled upon losing MacDonald part way through the season before rallying late in the campaign and losing 22-21 to eventual champion Terry Fox in the semifinals. “We will try to run it more this season, but that said, everyone knows South Delta will be a passing team. That’s just the way that we do it.”
The Sun Devils have lost four of their top seven tacklers from a season ago but there is still plenty of talent returning.
Rising Grade 10 Ben McDonald will see time at quarterback, just as he has since joining the team in 2015 as an eighth grader, but Moon loves what he brings on the defensive side of the ball as a free safety. Jacob Kirk, the brother of former start QB Lucas Kirk, should be a standout at linebacker, and Calvert himself can play all over the defence, although it remains to be seen how much he does given his importance at quarterback.
Hard-hitting bantam Rams’ grad Keldon Olmstead is also expected to make a splash at linebacker and Morgan Wolsey could line up at a defensive end spot for the Sun Devils.
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