Although the Muskies drubbed the Sturgeon Creek Schooners 63-0 in last year’s exhibition contest, head coach Bob Swing is expecting a much different outcome this time around.
This is another season—and a whole different group of football players.
“I can guarantee you the score will not be anything like it was last year,” Swing stressed late last week. “[Sturgeon Creek] has improved their team completely and they’re starting to get on the right track.”
But while the Schooners should be a better team, it’s not known how good the very young and inexperienced black-and-gold will be, especially early in the season.
Still, Swing said he’s not too worried about how his team will fare in their first exhibition game, which goes this Friday at 2 p.m. at Westfort. Rather, the coaches will use it to evaluate their players.
“For the first game, we don’t care about the score,” Swing said. “It will be a chance for us to gauge where we are at, and what our strengths and weaknesses are.”
“We’ll see where we’re at [Friday],” agreed defensive co-ordinator Brent DeBenedet.
“We just have to find out how we’ll do,” he added. “The game should be a learning experience for them, and we’ll have to see where they are and what their strengths are.”
What should be the black-and-gold’s strength in the early going is on offence, given the fact they have a seasoned quarterback in Gary Wager back at the helm.
But while Swing has the luxury of a proven quarterback calling the signals, he noted the running game is the key to any team’s success—particularly at the high school level.
If you can’t run the ball, you won’t win. It’s as simple as that.
“We always like to run the ball because games are decided with the run and that’s been our bread and butter,” said Swing, whose leading rusher, Terry LaBelle, won’t be back this year due to graduation.
“The only person back on offence that we know for sure where he is playing is Gary Wager,” he remarked. “But other than that, we’re not too sure.”
While Swing wasn’t quite ready yet to name his starting running backs, he said the Muskies have several talented players—and should be very tough on both the offensive and defensive lines.
The depth at those positions may be enough to carry the squad until the rookies find their niche.
“We should be good in the trenches but we’re young,” Swing admitted. “We have a whole lot of athletes who are a lot bigger and stronger than last year but we are not quite polished enough yet.”
The Muskies were in the same boat three years ago when the coaching staff took a talented but rookie-laden lineup and turned them into NorWOSSA champions.
And over the next two years, the team gelled into one of the more formidable high school football squads in Northwestern Ontario and Manitoba.
The Muskies are hoping to continue that trend this season.
“We’re going to be rough around the edges. We’ll need this exhibition game,” said Swing. “It’s important for us to get the game time in so we can see how far ahead we are.”