Barsby, NDSS kick off pre-season

One of the city’s high school football teams will try to put on the greatest show on turf, the other will try to grind it out on the grass.

Either way, they’re both pretty excited to be getting back on the gridiron.

The John Barsby Bulldogs and the Nanaimo District Islanders both kick off their pre-season schedules Friday (Sept. 9) in Nanaimo.

The ’Dawgs, defending champions of B.C. High School Football’s AA varsity division, get the honour of officially opening the City of Nanaimo’s new artificial turf surface at Merle Logan Field.

“You can’t blame any of the field conditions. It’s fast. It’s playing on a trampoline, really,” said Rob Stevenson, coach of the Bulldogs. “It plays into what we are because we’re a real athletic team, we’re fast, and so we’re going to be zipping around.”

The ’Dawgs will face the Holy Cross Crusaders at 5 p.m. after opening ceremonies at 4:30 p.m.

Stevenson said the Crusaders are a “storied program” that will be out to play a competitive football game.

“It’s going to show what you need to work on,” Stevenson said. “It’s going to put us under a little bit of pressure so we learn how to behave in a bigger game against a super quality opponent.”

Islanders face whale of a challenge

The NDSS Islanders, a Tier 2 varsity team, face a difficult first test, too. Parksville’s Ballenas Whalers are always contenders in AA varsity.

“We’ve had some pretty good dust-ups with them in junior varsity the last couple years,” said NDSS coach Nate Stevenson. “They’re  a big, strong, fast team that are going to do well this year.”

The Isles and Whalers kick off Friday (Sept. 9) at 12:30 p.m. at Nanaimo District Secondary School field. NDSS plans to make a big deal of the game to help boost spirit at the start of another school year.

The Isles have shown encouraging signs that they’ll give their fans plenty to cheer about.

“I’m proud of the guys,” said the coach. “There’s good work ethic, the numbers are good and we’ve put a lot of sweat on this field to get ourselves prepared for these exhibition games.”

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