Heading into the high school football season, it’s safe to say that no player in Abbotsford – and perhaps even province-wide – has bigger cleats to fill than Jacob Dodd.
The W.J. Mouat Hawks’ senior moves into the starting tailback role recently vacated by Maleek Irons, who happens to be the most prolific rusher in the storied history of B.C. high school football. Irons racked up a mind-bending 6,175 yards and 76 rushing touchdowns on behalf of the Hawks, before graduating and moving on to the NCAA Div. 1 Ohio Bobcats.
Some might find the challenge of following Irons to be daunting, but Dodd isn’t worried about the pressure – he’s excited for the opportunity.
“I’m just going to go in and do my best and see what happens,” he said. “I’m just hoping I can do what (Irons) did – play my hardest and just have a really good season.”
Dodd showed flashes of brilliance last season as a Grade 11 – with Irons sitting out a game against the Rutland Voodoo in October, he scored five TDs, and head coach Denis Kelly believes he’s got what it takes to carry the mail as a senior.
“He’s a very good tailback,” Kelly asserted. “He’s been working out all summer long and doing all the right things, and he has a chance to play college football.
“He’s a very good inside runner, and he’s deceptively fast. He’s very hard to bring down, and picks up a lot of extra yards by maintaining his balance. He’s going to surprise some people.”
Dodd is among the leaders of a Hawks team which begins the season as an honourable mention in the provincial AAA rankings. Other key players include Slater McRae (slotback and defensive back), Providence Ndizeye (slotback, cornerback) and wideouts Elijah Falconer and Cole Barker. Quarterbacks Noah Falconer and Noah Dietrich are battling for playing time.
T-WOLVES WILL BE TOUGH ON D
The Robert Bateman Timberwolves, who clash with Mouat on Sept. 5 in the non-conference opener for both teams (7:30 p.m. kickoff, Mouat Field), look at the perennial powerhouse Hawks as a role model for their AA program.
“The kids look forward to it every year, because they have friends over there and they want to be known as a football powerhouse as well,” said Dan Village, who takes the T-Wolves’ head-coaching reins this season. “Hopefully in a couple years, we’ll be a powerhouse just like Mouat. That’s the goal for us.”
Village, who played his CIS football at Queen’s University, is adapting elements of the Golden Gaels’ playbook for his Bateman charges. He’s got some good skill-position talent at his disposal – including QB Josh Friskie, running back Austen Zacher and receiver Tyson Gibson – along with an offensive tackle in Chase Joseph (6’4”, 270 pounds) who is earning university looks. Village is also bullish on his team’s defensive potential.
“We have a lot of speed and a lot of good athletes,” he said.
PANTHERS BOAST EXPERIENCE, TALENT
The Abby Senior Panthers might be the best of the local AA crop this season, as they return virtually their entire roster after being comprised of predominantly Grade 11 talent last season.
The current Grade 12 crew made it all the way to the provincial junior final during their Grade 10 year, fueling hopes that this could be a big year for the Panthers at the senior level. That elite crew of seniors is led by the likes of QB Jordan Fox, running back Grayson Marquardt and receivers Jordan Goheen and Madaraka Kuol.
“We expect a great deal from this group,” said assistant coach Elmore Abraham, whose team is No. 5 in the B.C. AA rankings to begin the year. “We have 18 returning seniors, very skilled players and a good line.”
YOUTH MOVEMENT AT HANSEN
Last year’s edition of the Rick Hansen Hurricanes was a senior-laden group, and after heavy grad losses, new head coach Rob Hallam acknowledged that this year is a bit of a rebuilding project for the AA squad.
That said, there’s a lot of talent at the West Abby school, much of it at the younger grade levels. Running back Dylan Manocha, receiver Balraj Mangat and offensive lineman Arbaaz Gill – all Grade 10 players – were part of the Team B.C. under-16 program over the summer, while running back Devin DaCosta lends senior leadership to the squad.
“We have a very young team at the senior level – we’re going to be in tough,” Hallam said. “The juniors have a lot of good athletes.
“The big thing this year is, let’s get as much experience and learn as much as we can. Next year, we’ll start the season with 30 or 40 kids on the senior team.
“There’s a lot of promise in the future.”