No one will be able to say the Westshore Rebels haven’t worked their tails off leading up to opening day in B.C. Football Conference play.
The Rebels, with 75 players on the field at various times last week toiling in sweltering conditions at Westhills Stadium, wrapped up their pre-season training camp Saturday with a three-hour workout.
“The boys were pretty gassed, but it’s been a great week. I’m really pleased,” Rebels head coach J.C. Boice said afterward. He admitted five straight days of “very, very fast” workouts in the hot sun took its toll, but players were told coming in that it was going to be an intense week.
“The thing I told the kids at the end of the week is ‘you don’t rise to the occasion, you sink the level of your preparedness,’” he said. “I’m prepared to say we’ll be the fittest team in B.C. this season.”
He and his fellow coaches saw players improve through the week as they demonstrated a solid work ethic and mental toughness, especially when it came to learning what Boice admits is a rather complex offensive scheme.
“I felt like we got a lot better,” he says of the progression through camp. “We’re on our way to being a very well-prepared football team.”
There were highs and lows from the week, with what Boice called an “epic” battle for the starting quarterback role among the bright spots. Veteran Hunter Lake, who didn’t commit until relatively recently, is expected to provide leadership, athleticism and toughness at the position, Boice said.
Challenging him for the No. 1 spot will be former Mount Douglas Ram, Ashton Mackinnon, a six-foot-seven, 230 pound giant who returns after a year trying to crack the lineup of the University of Manitoba Bisons. Also in the hunt are Edmonton’s Talyn Davies, a decorated Alberta high school player who some watchers expected to show up in Canadian university football this season; and Sooke’s Alex Wright, who continues to impress after playing little the past two seasons, but may likely line up at receiver.
Whomever winds up under centre may have a couple of talented rookies to throw to.
Nova Scotia native Nate Skeet, a potential inside or outside receiver, has shown to be “very explosive and very dependable for a first-year player,” Boice says. As well, Belmont alumnus Mike Peverelle, a lanky 6-4, 220-pounder, showed well at camp, the coach added.
But the Rebels won’t have last year’s receiving sensation Jordan Rodinsky on the roster, after he decided to leave the team. “I’m disappointed … I would have thought he would have been a 1,000-yard receiver for us,” Boice said.
In the backfield, the Rebels have a healthy Matt Pastro for a season until he heads to university, along with Jordan Worth, another Belmont product who is shouldering a heavier workload.
They’ll have some holes created by former Mount Doug Ram Aarmin Purewal, a 6-5, 290-pound offensive lineman who comes home after a season with the Western University Mustangs in the CIS. He’s one of three players in camp who played for the Rams when they won three B.C. High School championships.
Defensively, 6-2, 320-pound O-line stalwart Connor Bryan moves to the other side of the ball with the team’s offence focusing more on passing and movement. “On the defensive line we needed to add some size,” Boice said, “and he’s the definition of big and strong.”
Other notable returnees on D are defensive backs Johnny Quan and Jordan Bosse, plus linemen Tyson Morison and Peter Allan.
The Rebels don’t expect to make any cuts, Boice said, and may yet sign a couple more players from CIS teams who are looking to play junior for a year.
They open the season on the road July 25 against the Okanagan Sun, then play their home opener at Westhills against the Vancouver Island Raiders. For more information, visit westshorerebels.ca.