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NorWOSSA to feature young football squads


With the NorWOSSA football season cancelled last year, the Muskies were the only team to play a full slate of games--albeit exhibition ones.

That left Kenora and Dryden all but losing a full year, which could have been used to develop young talent. And that makes it very difficult to predict who will crowned league champ this season.

“I think it will be hard to judge for the fact the other two teams lost a whole year,” said Muskie head coach Bob Swing, whose team opens NorWOSSA play here Friday against Dryden in the annual Homecoming game.

“I know Kenora will have a lot of young kids and they’ll be in the same boat as us but I don’t know about Dryden,” he added. “I don’t know how many kids have been coming out there.”

Certainly, playing games last fall should help the black-and-gold as they begin their first season under a revamped program, which sees two development teams playing under the senior unit.

Here’s a breakdown of all three teams in NorWOSSA this season.

Fort Frances Muskies:

Last year’s record 5-1


The Muskies are led by returning quarterback Gary Wager, who should provide poise and leadership at the pivot position.

Like most high school teams, the black-and-gold will try to establish a successful ground game, which should be bolstered by the presence of two big, strong linemen in Chad Canfield and Jesse Rodrigues.

Both are expected to open huge holes up front as part of one of the best offensive lines the Muskies have seen in recent years.

But Swing said he won’t hesitate to go to the air with a veteran corps of receivers back for another year in Adam McTavish, Doug LaBelle, and Jamie Booth.

Players to watch

Swing is high on a pair of running backs in Scott Witherspoon and David Gemmell. Both will be imperative to the success of the Muskies this season and could have solid years.

On defence, the team would benefit greatly from a strong season from middle linebacker Jeff Poperechny.

Key to season

In short--stay healthy. The Muskies must stay off the injured list in order to reach their potential. With the team lacking depth at key positions, the black-and-gold’s top players must remain healthy.

Swing feels he has several solid ‘B’ team players who are suitable backups but is concerned they are a long way from being capable senior players--at least right now.

Dryden Eagles:

Last year’s record 0-2


After a lost season a year ago, Eagle head coach Geoff Zilkalns and his coaching staff have been hard-pressed to find out what their team does well.

But Zilkalns so far has been pleased with the team’s “good crop of young players,” which he hopes will blossom someday into sound football players.

Defensively, Dryden again will be young but they do boast some quickness at the linebacker position.

Players to watch

Quarterback Chris Hoffman as he makes the transition to the pivot position from wide receiver. He will be asked to direct a young offence that most certainly will need a strong ground game.

That running attack, which was still questionable heading into their opener last Friday against Kenora, will be led tailback Byron McKenzie.

Key to season

Quite simply, the Eagles are young at all positions but Zilkalns is hoping they are quick learners. “We need these guys to master the skills and mature quickly,” he stressed.

And with a lack of depth, the Eagles will have to stay healthy in order to stay competitive. If they don’t, it could be a long season for Dryden.

Kenora Broncos:

Last year’s record 2-0


With 55 kids still in camp as of late last week, it would have to be numbers.

The Broncos don’t have a whole lot of experienced players on the roster this season but have plenty of optimism for the future if they stick with the program.

First-year head coach Chris Penner is hoping to develop that talent into a championship team sometime in the near future.

Players to watch

Without question, the Broncos offence will revolve around the talents of veteran running back Karl Yanchishyn and rookie QB Steven Fedus. The latter will use the talents of his running backs on a regular basis but may have an impressive target in receiver Linden Penner.

On defence, the Broncos will be led by four-year vet Matt Temple at safety. He should make opposing quarterbacks think twice about airing it out, and unquestionably is the cornerstone of a young defence.

Key to season

Penner feels the key to this season won’t be found in the win or loss column. Rather, he wants to revitalize the Bronco program and get “interest” back in it.

After a lopsided exhibition loss to the Grant Park Pirates in their opener last month, Penner is hoping, much like Zilkalns in Dryden, that his players learn from their mistakes and continue to progress during the upcoming NorWOSSA season.

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