Three Yorkton Regional High School Raiders – Dalton Fitchner, Adam McCannel, and Layne Hull – have their sights set on earning a Regina Thunder spot in the Canadian Junior Football League next season.
The trio of high school football stars took part in the Thunder's indoor camp on January 20 and will head back to Regina for more weekend stints up until the team's spring training camp.
Raiders head coach Roby Sharpe is confident that all three athletes have a strong shot at making the Queen City club.
"They are tough hard-nosed players," he says. "I believe they have the right mentality and good enough athletic ability to play junior football."
Fitchner's exceptional raw athletic talent made him a standout at the camp.
"We feel with his aggressiveness, coach ability, and motor – he (Fitchner) could push for a roster spot with the club," says Thunder head coach Scott MacAulay.
Fitchner will have some adjusting to do at the junior level with him moving away from his high school quarterback position.
"Fitchner is a great athlete, but he is a bit raw on defense," says Sharpe. "In high school football, you always put your best athlete at quarterback. So that is what we did with him. But at the junior level, he won't play quarterback. He will probably play defensive back, so he will have to adjust to that position. But I'm not too worried about it, he's such a good athlete, he will catch on quick."
As it stands, MacAulay plans on fitting Fitchner into their defensive back.
"The biggest thing for him and us is to ensure he plays a consistent position, so he is given the opportunity to excel with the defensive backs," he says.
Even if Fitchner makes the Thunder, he might not be there next year. He is also eying up the Regina Rams at the university level.
"There is a chance he could make the Rams," says Sharpe. "I'm assuming he'd choose the Rams over the Thunder."
McCannel's towering stature caught the eye of the Thunder coaching staff at the camp.
"McCannel is a solid athlete that brings some decent size to the defensive line," says MacAulay.
McCannel is somewhat in between sports, though. He also has options to play junior hockey next year.
"He has some big decisions ahead of him on whether he will pursue hockey or football," says Sharpe. "He's a heck of a hockey player. He is the captain of the Midget AA Terriers and will probably have junior hockey options."
Hull's abrasive style put him on the map for MacAulay.
"Layne Hull is tall athletic kid that is not afraid to make contact," he says. "In talking to Roby Sharpe, he is the type of player we should look at as a dime back in our defensive backfield. I am looking forward to seeing what he brings to the table at our next camp."
Sharpe notes Hull can be an impact player in a variety of different positions.
"Hull is kind of a cross between a linebacker and a defensive back," says Sharpe. "But he's also a good receiver. It really depends on what their scheme is on where they use him. He's one of the best high school blockers I've ever seen, so he's very valuable in that role."
If all or some of the Yorkton natives crack the squad next year, they will see a familiar face in the dressing room with 2012 Yorkton graduate Paul Toth suiting up for the Thunder as a linebacker.
"It's nice for the guys to know someone on the team," says Sharpe. "It makes the transition a bit easier."
"He was a major contributor on special teams last year and we expect him to make an impact at linebacker this year," adds MacAulay on Toth.