Windsor Dukes' quarterback Ryan Baker (left) straight-arms his way past Holy Cross tackler Jamal Osei-Anim last Saturday in Surrey. (Varsity Letters photo by Howard Tsumura)
High School Football

Windsor Dukes: Roster numbers so low, coach Schuman says ‘an injury or two could end our season’

NORTH VANCOUVER —The head coach of B.C.’s undefeated, No. 1-ranked Double A football team says there is no guarantee his team will even be able to finish the regular season. 

While many fans and pundits are installing North Vancouver’s Windsor Dukes as the team to beat on the road to the Subway Bowl championship final at B.C, Place, head coach Jim Schuman told Varsity Letters on Wednesday that due to extremely low roster numbers, he is treating each game as potentially his team’s last of the season.

“The truth is, I am imagining that we are going to carry on week by week, and we know that any given week can be our last,” said Schuman whose roster includes just 12 players with any kind of experience, and 16 in total.

“If we suffer an injury or two, that could end our season,” he continued of his team which is 5-0 overall and 3-0 in the AA Western Conference, “and so the way we look at it, each week is like our championship.”

Windsor Dukes’ coach Jim Schuman is coaching B.C.’s No. 1-ranked AA team on a tightrope due to its low enrolment numbers. (Varsity Letters photo by Howard Tsumura)

Windsor has battled low numbers in the past.

In fact, despite not having massive rosters through the latter half of the 1990s and early turn of the century (1995-2005), Windsor won six Subway Bowl B.C. Double A titles.

Yet none of those teams had numbers dip down to current levels, or was ever in jeopardy of folding within the season of play.

And when you examine just how committed a small core of its seniors has been since winning the B.C. junior varsity Double A title in 2015, not being able to finish a season of such incredible promise would rank beyond unfortunate.

“When you look at a football team, you see its core players, but you also see a lot of others that come together to give it its numbers,” said Schuman. “We have our core and very little else.”

Windsor had so few players show up in the spring for its junior varsity team that the concept of having a Grade 9-10 team was scrapped.

And now, the Dukes play one of their biggest games of the season Friday (2 p.m.) when they travel to Nanaimo to face the hard-hitting, No. 4-ranked John Barsby Bulldogs in a clash of undefeated (3-0) Western Conference teams.

And the one leading the way, senior quarterback/middle linebacker Ryan Baker, admits he and his teammates rally around the fact that the combination of their small numbers and their lofty ranking makes them a target for every team they play.

“For sure, it’s about proving a point,” says Baker, who in five games has a combined rushing-passing total of 1,105 yards and has scored 16 combined touchdowns. “But we’ve always had this struggle with numbers. And so when you have that ranking (No. 1) and those numbers, you can’t ever take anything for granted and we don’t.”

So much so that Windsor has beaten Pitt Meadows 53-7, preseason No. 1 Abbotsford 44-27, Hugh Boyd 25-14, Argyle 41-20 and Holy Cross 38-0.

Its plus-70 point differential in league games is tops in the Western Conference.

Windsor Dukes’ halfback Julien Perri (with ball) is one of the North Vancouver team’s small number of talented core players. (Varsity Letters photo by Howard Tsumura)

After this weekend’s game at John Barsby, the Dukes wind up their regular season Nov. 3 at home to Parksville’s Ballenas Whalers.

“It had got to the point where we didn’t know if we would have a team,” said Schuman of the preseason, “so it is impressive that these guys we do have decided to stick it out.”

Defining the core of a dozen seniors, to no one’s surprise is their versatility.

For example, Sean and Ryan Werbowski, along with Ben McMichael and Julien Perri are all among the team’s rushing, receiving and tackling leaders.

“When you have this small a group and the guys are all playing at the pace we do and all are going both ways, you can get pretty tired,” admits Baker. “But with the passion that everybody here has, we’ve still been able to give it our all.”

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