Gone for now are the daunting challenges of powerhouse teams like the Terry Fox Ravens, Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers and St. Thomas More Collegiate Knights, but the W.J. Mouat Hawks senior varsity football team believes this year will be a step forward to get back there.
The Hawks have been moved to the AAA’s Pacific conference for 2018, and with that shift comes a more-agreeable schedule for the developing program.
Mouat finished with a record of 1-6 competing in the AAA’s Eastern conference in 2017, and suffered several lopsided losses to some of those aforementioned teams. The now nine-team Pacific features nine programs from around the conference, and Hawks head coach Travis Bell said the new grouping will give his program the chance to test itself.
“It’s our first time in the Pacific and it’s a bit of a weaker conference compared to what we’re used to,” he said, of the move. “We had a rough year last year and really slugged it out in a few games so I think this might be a better fit for us.”
Only the top two teams from the division qualify for the playoffs, so the Hawks will have to acclimate to the new division fast. They open the B.C. high school football regular season today (Friday) at home against South Surrey’s Earl Marriott Mariners.
Bell said training camp kicked off the last week of August, and said that while he’d like to see bigger numbers, the players have been committed. He said there are about 25 players aside for both the senior and junior programs, but more players are trickling in to suit up as school has started.
“There’s a good feel around the team and we have a good schedule that I think allows us to compete with every team on it,” he said. “We want to use this year to create some excitement around our program and build some confidence within.”
He said the talent on the team is there, and it’s just a matter of executing.
“We have athletes on this team and a lot of guys that have the ability to do things with the ball,” he said.
One of those guys is returning running back and linebacker Ebie Okoko, who did not suit up for the team last year. Okoko will be relied on to use his speed and size to create offensive chances. Nathan Hasuermann, last year’s top rusher on the Hawks, will be joining him. Hausermann scored five touchdowns and collected 505 yards in six games last year. His speed makes him a threat to score at any time.
Mouat’s starting quarterback this year is Grade 11 student Tyran Duvall. He makes the move to pivot after spending time as a running back last year, Bell said his athleticism and football intelligence made him a good fit for the position.
The offensive and defensive lines will be anchored by Connor Brinson and Arman Dhaliwal, who will also be the kicker for the team.
Bell said Friday’s tilt against the Mariners should be a good test, as the Hawks did not compete in any exhibition games.
“Their quarterback is really good and they have a couple of wide receivers who are really dangerous but I think if we do our job and take care of the ball we have a good shot of winning,” he said.
Mouat kicks off the regular season against the Mariners under the Friday Night Lights at Latham Field at 7 p.m.
SLIDESHOW BY: BEN LYPKA/ABBOTSFORD NEWS