The Nanaimo Redmen think they can play smashmouth football and they think they have some razzle-dazzle, too. And they think they can win.
The city’s Vancouver Mainland Football League midget team kicks off the regular season on Monday (Sept. 5) in Langley.
The Redmen, contenders every year, feel they’ve put together as talented a group as ever. Players play tough on both sides of the ball, there are some speedy playmakers and there are some big bodies.
“We’ve never really had the kind of size where teams have been worried about playing us. We’ll actually be bigger than some teams this year,” said Sean Roden, Redmen coach.
The team has a lot of motivation to win. Fans will remember that the Redmen were eliminated from the playoffs by the Cloverdale Bengals last fall in overtime on an overturned call by an official.
“It really makes you think how much harder you actually have to play so you don’t get put in that position,” said Mike Haverstock, Redmen veteran.
He said the players believe they can get to the point where they can force a different outcome in this year’s playoffs.
“We could be a top team in this league easily, as long as everyone keeps focus and high intensity,” he said.
Here’s a look at the 2011 Nanaimo Redmen who will take the field Monday:
The Redmen are content to give the offence time to build chemistry.
With a 16-year-old quarterback, Jonah Wassell, the team will let the rookie adjust to the midget game.
“Maybe we don’t have quite as much flash on offence as we had,” said Roden. “We’re probably going to be more of a running team.”
Kalden Keen will get the bulk of the handoffs, as the power back was tough to tackle during the pre-season. John Whitehead will offer a totally different look as a scatback. Other names in the run game will be tailback Sheldon Letcher and fullbacks Cam Nesvog and Brodie Squire.
The receiving corps is led by sure-handed Alex Kutra and complemented by speedy Jordan Pugh and Jaxxen Wylie. Kyle Davies is the other starter.
The offensive line isn’t huge, but the coach said it’s a smart and technically sound group. Jake Ray centres the line, with rookie Chae Faickney another impressive addition. Nick Turner and Jaden MacLennan are some other members.
Kutra said he sees a lot of potential on offence.
“We have a few bumps to work out, especially our chemistry needs to be a lot better,” he said. “But I’m sure that will come with time.”
The defence isn’t going to give up very much this season. Sean Roden said the front seven might be the best he’s ever had and the secondary has its share of playmakers, too.
“We’ll stop the run game way better than we did last year…” he said. “One thing that I’ve noticed on film that we’ve done exceptionally well this year is gang tackle.”
Cam Rossetto, Nathan Warawa and Landon Beisel are defensive line starters. Mike Haverstock will play both on the D line and in the linebacking corps, where he will be joined by Brodie Squire, Adrian Keller and Ethan Schulz.
Jaxxen Wylie and Jordan Pugh lead the defensive backfield with their speed and playmaking ability, and converted linebacker Taylor Saine adds physicality to the safety position. Trent Wright will be another DB starter.
Todd Hansen is the kicker and has shown a strong leg in the pre-season.
Wylie and Pugh, said the coach, will form the league’s fastest kick return tandem.
The Redmen play the Langley Stampeders on Monday (Sept. 5) in the Fraser Valley. First action in Nanaimo is Sept. 11 against Ridge Meadows.