They pushed the 2016 AA provincial champion Seaquam Seahawks hard in the opening round of last year’s playoffs, and now this year the Bateman Timberwolves are looking to take that next step.
Bateman trailed by only six points with minutes to go in that game, but while they eventually lost 26-8, battling the champions hard proved that the Timberwolves have the talent to compete against the best in AA.
At least that’s what Bateman head coach David Mills is counting on.
“This is my second year as head coach here and each year I want the program to progress,” he said, during a preseason training session earlier this month. “It’s tough to predict wins and losses, but I want us to move forward and continue to have the senior guys set an example for the younger guys. If we can build on last year, I think we’re headed in the right direction and we will see how that translates into wins and losses.”
The Timberwolves finished 2016 with a record of four wins and six losses before bowing out in round one of the playoffs. The club has played one exhibition game so far this year, falling 42-7 to Vernon at home on Sept. 8.
But a strong showing against new conference rival the Abbotsford Panthers encouraged Mills.
“Overall I’m feeling pretty good about the team,” he said. “We scrimmaged with Abby a few weeks ago – and they’re ranked number one in the province – and we held them to 16-0. So defensively I think we’re pretty good. Our run defence was really good, but I do think we need to shore up our passing defence before the season starts. Offensively, we need a little more polish and some time to gel but I think we have the guys here to make that work.”
Some of those guys that Mills will be relying on include Grade 12 standout running back and linebacker Brock McCartney.
“He’s 6-1 and 220 pounds so he’s a big load and I think he’ll be able to wear down defences for us over the course of a game,” Mills said.
McCartney, who has also been an important part of the Bateman rugby team, is expected to be an important piece on defence too.
Grade 11 Logan McDonald is set to be the Timberwolves starting quarterback, while Mills also thinks linebacker and offensive lineman Sean Moynahan (Grade 12) will be a big difference maker for his team.
“He’s going to be a good leader for us,” Mills said.
He also pointed to linebacker and offensive lineman Jordan Bahm as someone who can be “an impact player” for his club.
McDonald and his chemistry with his wide receivers will also determine how much success Bateman has.
“As the season goes on I think our passing game will get better and better,” Mills said. “We have a pretty good quarterback who knows how to move the ball.”
A familiar foe is back in the Timberwolves conference, as the aforementioned Panthers return after a year playing AAA. Back in 2015, Abbotsford reached the provincial final in AA and Mills said he’s glad to see the cross-town rivals back on the schedule.
“I really like playing against Abby,” he said. “We missed having them in our conference last year, and I think the guys like it. Some of them played with or against each other when they were younger so I think the guys are looking forward to it.
Bateman and Abbotsford Senior renew their rivalry on Oct. 27, when the Panthers travel to Bateman field.
The Timberwolves host Hugh Boyd today (Friday) at 12:30 p.m., with a food truck, music and other activities available for fans to participate in. Bateman then travels to West Vancouver on Sept. 22 and closes off the exhibition schedule on Sept. 29 in Nanaimo when they visit John Barsby.
Bateman opens the regular season on the road against Pitt Meadows on Oct. 6, and then host their regular season home opener against G.W. Graham on Oct. 13 at 3:30 p.m.
Read next Friday’s edition of the Abbotsford News for a preview of the Abbotsford Panthers.