Hawks football readies for new season 0
Haliburton Highlands Secondary School Grade 9 athlete Devon Bangay catches a pass in a pre-season workout for the junior Red Hawks football team on Thursday, Sept. 13. The juniors are playing in the second tier and will play a five game regular season. DARREN LUM/HALIBURTON ECHO/QMI AGENCY
The great thing for a new year is new hope.
When you have close to 50 players suit up for the first week of pre-season football anything is possible.
Red Hawks junior football coach Bruce Griffith is excited despite his team being put into tier two of the Kawartha League.
The team will play a five-game season so each game is crucial to be among the top three who will be eligible for the playoffs.
“I’m expecting to have six games. We’ll see what happens,” he said.
The team’s home opener is against the Kenner Rams on Oct. 11.
Three road games will precede the home opener.
Griffith said traditionally the travel is tough on teams, as it has always been an advantage for the Red Hawks in their home games. However, he said, his team will be prepared.
With the exception of his linesman personnel, Griffith’s team is very deep, including the coaching staff.
This wealth of players and staff is a rarity.
The offense includes a possibility for a passing dimension, as the depth chart has four quarterbacks and several capable players at the backfield and receiver positions.
Griffith said for the first time he’ll have four quarterbacks on his roster: Devon Upton is his starter, who is a “double-attack weapon” with his arm and his speed, Cody Bain, the backup quarterback, who will also play linebacker, and two other Grade 9s.
For the first time, Griffith said he would start two Grade 9s in the backfield: Mac Rider, a tailback and the speedy Joseph Patrick at slotback, who is arguably the fastest athlete in the school. He said it is still early, but is happy about being able to possibly use these players for two years.
Matt Sexsmith, Ben Davis and Hunter Smith will be playing defence and offence.
Ken Briggs, a second-year defensive lineman, is out with an injury suffered in pre-season and will be out for two weeks.
The coaching staff includes HHSS teacher Ryan Merritt, and community volunteer Derek Wilson, who helped last year and played football at York University, and community volunteer Raavo Laidla.
The winless 2012 season (0-6) has left the Red Hawks in the newly created tier two division, which will include the Kenner Rams, St. Peter’s Saints, Norwood Knights and the TASS Griffins.
Despite the change, coach Tim Davies is optimistic about the season and happy to give his players an opportunity to play the greatest game in the world.
“We just try to instill in the fellas that they’re playing the best game on a nightly basis, practice and play … we provide the best program in the area for young men,” Davies said.
He adds his team has always been inclusive. They’ll take everyone regardless of size or shape. There’s a position and a spot for everyone, he said.
Davies said the team is not eligible to compete in the playoffs in tier two.
The Red Hawks will play an eight game (home-and-opposing team home) season. It is still being decided how a team could gain entry into tier one following this season.
The team, which includes 29 players on the roster, may have lost leaders and performers such as Grant Ellis, Stuart Locke and Andrew Murray to graduation to name a few, but is not without suitable replacements. Davies said returning seniors Jonah Stonehouse, middle-linebacker, Jake Ruddell, guard and Louis Ferracuti, tailback, are worthy leaders, as all of them exemplified leadership and commitment by putting in the work during the off-season
The coaching staff includes Derek Little.
The injuries have already started. Ruddell will miss three weeks while Drake Montgomery will miss two weeks and Brad Wood should be ready this week.
The team’s home opener is against the Kenner Rams on Thursday, Oct. 11.