Last season the Sacred Heart Saints senior football team finished third overall in their SHSAA Nine-Man Football League conference with a 2-4 record through the regular season.
However the 2-4 record meant the Saints still qualified for the post-season; a post-season in which they were quickly dispatched by Melville in the first round.
And while losing in the first round of the playoffs is never a positive thing, the 2013 season, according to Saints head coach Trent Senger, was merely a building year and results, good or bad, were not as important as getting more experience for the younger players. “We had a lot of young guys last year so it was kind of a building year for us,” offered Senger. “This year we expect to be much better.”
But how much better does Senger think his team will be? “I think we’ll be one of the top two teams this year,” mentioned Senger, adding, “actually I’ll be disappointed if we’re not in the top two.”
A top two finish, however, is much easier said than done, especially with both Melville and Foam Lake, who the Saints were 0-3 and 0-2 against respectively last year, returning many of their starters from the 2013 season.
In addition to that, Broadview joins the conference for their first taste of nine-man football after many years playing in a six-man league, while Esterhazy, like Sacred, was in the midst of a building year in 2013 and looks poised to make a push upwards through the standings and challenge for the 2014 crown.
And although 2013 Saints were a very young team, the 2014 Saints, while a year older and wiser, will still be younger than much of their competition. “We’re still young, no doubt. But we’re going to rely heavily on our grade 10’s and 11’s this year as we’ve got a really good crew coming up,” suggested the Saints head coach. “We have some strong grade 12’s but the bulk of our squad is from the 10-11 grade categories and even though they’re young, they should still help us improve.”
Another thing that will help the Saints improve upon their 2013 campaign will be a return to a run first offence, which is something Senger admitted his team has strayed away from in recent years. “We’re really going to rely on the run this year. I think we’ll be a stronger running team than we have been these past two or three years,” offered Senger, continuing, “I think we’ve gone to the pass a lot more the past few years so this year we’ll go back to the basics, play to our strengths and really put the ball in the running back’s hands.”
And that running back will be Mathew Martsinkiw, a veteran Saint back for yet another football season, this time as a player that Senger feels will lead the Saints offensive onslaught. “Mathew (Martsinkiw) is returning this year and he’s bigger, stronger,” said the Saints bench boss. “He hit the weights this summer so he’s a much better looking running back this year and he’ll be the number one guy for us with a couple fast and quick guys to back him up.”
But the running back position isn’t the only position that has seen an increase in size and/or skill from 2013.
The linebacking core has also gotten bigger, badder and better with Brody Kormos leading the way, flanked by the Pidperyhora brothers, Nathan and Kris. “We’re going to lean on our linebacking core of Brody Kormos, Kris Pidperyhora and Nathan Pidperyhora defensively,” mentioned Senger, adding that the return of Cameron Peepeetch will also do nothing but improve an already strong Saints defensive game that is ‘hungry to start the season’.
That hunger will be attended to in short order, however, as the Saints’ first game of 2014 will be against last year’s conference champions, the Foam Lake Panthers, who the Saints were 0-2 last year against, losing 21-7 in Yorkton and 35-14 in Foam Lake.
The Saints take on the Panthers in Foam Lake on Friday with kickoff set for 4:00p.m.
The Saints will kick off their home schedule with a game against conference rookie Broadview on Thursday, September 11, at 4:00p.m. at Sacred Heart.