Despite coming off a bye week, Muskie head coach Bob Swing said his team is "pretty banged up" heading into their game Saturday up in Dryden.
Even though the black-and-gold haven’t seen game action since their 36-0 blowout over the visiting Kenora Broncos in their Homecoming game Sept. 5, Swing admitted his team is hurting as they take on the winless Eagles.
"We have at least a dozen guys banged up right now," he said. "We have a lot of little injuries--the guys have really been hitting the crap out of each other the past week.
"We also have guys battling the ’flu so we’ll have a no-contact practice on Thursday," he added. "But as we told the guys, this game is for first place."
The Muskies also will be without veteran defensive player Tim Ewen and the versatile Nathan Kempf, who had been playing on both sides of the ball as well as returning kicks.
Swing said these two players are no longer with the team because of their inability to make practices.
"It’s unfortunate that those two players won’t be with us any more but the coaches met and that’s what we decided to do," he noted.
"It’s not something we wanted to do."
Still, the Muskies will take a very talented group to Dryden, including a defence that stymied Kenora’s offense two weeks ago, and which has dominated NorWOSSA since the middle of last season.
But Swing stressed his defence will be more aggressive at the line this Saturday, hoping to put pressure on Dryden quarterback Myles Morris.
In fact, the Muskies haven’t recorded a sack in their first three games this season--and that’s one aspect Swing wants to see improved.
"We have had a lot of guys playing both sides of the ball," he explained. "We’ve worked on a few wrinkles this past week and we’re looking to perfect what we have."
Meanwhile, the Muskies will bring a very potent ground game into Dryden, led by Terry LaBelle, who rushed for 212 yards on 19 carries against Kenora, and Dana Preston, which complements their aerial attack engineered by second-year pivot Jon Caul.
Swing hinted they’ll try to establish the run Saturday against the Eagles but quickly added they also will "throw the ball more" than in the season opener here.
In other news, the Muskies this week finally received their "pop-up dummies" from the Edmonton Eskimos (where former Muskie coach Scott Fawcett is special teams coach), which have helped the team better prepare for Dryden.
"[The dummies] got shipped out the wrong way so they’re about a month late," Swing noted. "But they’re a good way for the kids to get in reps and work on their techniques."