The Muskie football team has had a good number of athletes attend its training camp so far, meaning things are looking good as they attempt to kick-off another Winnipeg High School Football League season this week.
Muskie co-coach Vic Davis noted that roughly 40 students on average have shown up to camp at various points.
“Yeah, it's been going really good. There's been a lot of kids coming out,” Davis said of the training camp practices so far on Friday.
“So we've had over 40 kids total—not all at the same time—but good numbers this year,” he enthused.
The Muskies had to forfeit their WHSFL season-opener last year against the host Churchill Bulldogs due to inadequate practice time and not having enough players attending those practices.
But the practice culture of the team has been steadily improving and doesn't appear as though it will be an issue in the early going this season.
“We could always use more kids, but we have enough right now that gives us the luxury of having better practices and everything else,” Davis remarked.
“So, the numbers are good.”
A good number of those players are fresh out of Grade 8 and have never played football before, according to Davis.
As such, the coaching staff is working diligently with the younger cohort to get them up to speed on the fundamentals of football.
“So we really have to start from the basics safety-wise, like tackling, that's the main one,” Davis stressed.
"And then of course blocking, running routes, all the basics like that—footwork and stuff.
“So that's what we're trying to work on now because, you know, our first game is coming up fast and we gotta get playing but all these kids gotta know how to hit and tackle and do it all safely,” he reasoned.
Fort High is slated to open the 2019 WHSFL season on the road this Friday against the host Springfield Collegiate Sabres.
Some changes to the Currie Division ('A') this year has seen both the Elmwood Giants and St. John's Tigers promoted to the Bramwell Division ('AA') while Springfield and the Neelin Spartans switch spots with them.
“Honestly, we haven't really thought about them yet. We'll probably look more to them next week [and] we'll concentrate,” Davis said of the Sabres last week.
“We're perfecting our own plays and getting all our reps in and stuff. We'll concentrate a little bit more on them next week.”
A scheduling quirk in Week 2 also sees the Muskies listed as the home team against the Spartans on Sept. 19, but the game will actually be played at a neutral field in Winnipeg.
That means the Muskies will only have two actual home games in the regular season.
“They have a long travel, and we have a long travel, so I guess we're playing in a neutral spot in Winnipeg,” Davis explained as Neelin High School is in Brandon, Man.
“It's kind of bad because I think we get cheated out of that as we only get two home games, I believe it's the [Sept.] 27 and [Oct.] 4,” he conceded.
“I don't know if we make the playoffs if we'll get a home playoff game, but if things go well we can argue for something like that.”
The Muskies finished with a 4-2 record in the Currie Division last season, good enough for fourth place of seven teams, where they eventually were edged 31-30 by the top-ranked Giants in the semi-finals.
It's a tough loss that still haunts the black-and-gold and is something that they are using as motivation this season.
“I think we all want to win,” Davis said of the upcoming season.
"I know we came very close last year which was a very exciting but disappointing result in our playoff game.
“That was too bad that we couldn't have pulled that off because it was a very winnable game,” he recalled.
“I think we kind of felt. . .not cheated, just disappointed. It was one of those games that it could have went either way in the end and it just didn't fall our way.”
Davis noted that the returning seniors from that game, led by Grade 12 quarterback Brady Meeks, all know what it takes to win now and that they'll be gunning to help take the squad to the next level this year.
“I think we're all shooting for that, we wanna win” Davis stressed.
“When I first started coaching, [Meeks] came in and I kind of watched him through the years and he's gotten better and better every year,” he lauded.
"I think we all expect big things from him this year. He is a leader on the field and if things aren't going right, he'll even stop practice to talk to the kids himself and have them refocus.
“His leadership will be big this year," Davis predicted. "And we'll need that from some our other seniors, too.”