With a full season guiding the Westshore Rebels under his belt and the team’s annual awards handed out, head coach J.C. Boice is optimistic about the future of his football team.
Only five players out of more than 70 on the 2015 roster have graduated from the program and the learning curve will likely be less steep next year, Boice says.
“I’m very excited about all the players we’ve got coming back – they learned a lot this season,” he says. “Some teams are losing more than others, but everybody is losing more than we are.”
While the individuals who have aged out of the program will be missed, he says – pointing to the versatility of receiver/quarterback and team most valuable player Hunter Lake as being particularly hard to replace – he expects the young core of the team to make an impact in the B.C. Football Conference in 2016.
“I’m most excited about the offensive line; we’ve got the entire group coming back,” says Boice, who ran the team’s offence this past season. “That’s the foundation of our team.”
A couple of the o-linemen have been offered scholarships to CIS schools in Canada for 2016 yet have chosen to stick around for another year to participate in the development of the team, he adds. Among them is Aarmin Purewal, a decorated former Mount Douglas Rams player who previously committed to the University of Manitoba Bisons.
Other linemen coming back are Connor Bryan, Kolton Henderson and Kyle Harrington, who have played two years of junior; Jake Hall, a third-year man, and rookie Sandy Walker.
“To have all six of those guys back is going to be huge for us. They played very well down the stretch, opening up lanes,” Boice says, and gave the quarterbacks more time to set up in passing situations.
While Lake’s poise filling in at quarterback will be missed, getting a full season under centre from two-time BCFC offensive player of the week Ashton MacKinnon will be key to the team success on offence, the coach adds. “We were really starting to connect before he went down with an injury (halfway through the season), so having him back will be big for us.”
Boice also sees running back Jordan Worth playing an even bigger role next year. “He’s going to be very dynamic for us next year. He had some inconsistencies this year … but there were some times of brilliance.”
On defence, cornerbacks Cody Wist and Jordan Bosse “got picked on a lot” by experienced quarterbacks and had to toughen up through the season, he said, “but they showed tremendous resilience. They’re good football players and very competitive guys.”
On the d-line, Jorge Yarwood, a six-four, 270-pounder out of Vancouver; and James Bradley, a 6-1, 300-pound lineman groomed on local football fields, are expected to raise their game in their second season next year.
With the development of younger players, Boice says, and a recruiting plan that is seeing more talented athletes choose to pursue a spot with the Rebels, the outlook is positive after back-to-back 2-8 seasons.
“When you’re doing a program turnaround, the first year you’re in games you’re not supposed to be in, and we did that this year. The second year, that’s when you win games you’re not supposed to win.”
Based on the interest level this year and having a full off-season to work with, he predicts the team may have enough players to host a veteran’s and a rookie training camp.
The Rebels will host their annual general meeting on Nov. 17, where they’ll introduce some high-profile additions to the coaching staff and new partnerships that are expected to further boost the club’s presence within the community, Boice says.
The best in red
Westshore Rebels handed out their 2015 team awards recently. Here’s the rundown:
• Community citizen of the year – Erikson Deseron, Ryan Allard
• Leadership excellence – Alex Wright
• Outstanding teammate – Darcy Cherneff, Talyn Davies
• Toughness Crew – Joe Barkhouse, James Danylchuk, Matt Pastro, Kent Cross
• Most improved – Jeremy Nagai (defence), Kyle Harrington (offence)
• Top rookie – Cody Wist (defence), Ashton MacKinnon (offence)
• Top def. lineman – James Bradley
• Top linebacker – Jordan Goertzen
• Top def. back – Brody Uddenberg
• Top off. lineman – Aarmin Purewal
• Top receiver – Hunter Lake
• Top off. back – Jordan Worth
• Special teams player — Kent Cross
• Def. player of the year – James Bradley
• Off. player of the year – Hunter Lake
• Most inspirational – Jordan Bosse
• Most valuable player – Hunter Lake
• Rein Eberle Volunteer of the Year – Jason Sperling