The Yorkton Regional High School Raider Gridders are preparing for the start of the 2019 season, with a mission, to repeat the success of the last two years.
“We’re two time league champs, going for a third league championship,” said head coach Roby Sharpe as he watched this year’s crop of Raider Gridders put through practice drills Friday. “We were just 12 points away from being two time provincial champs.”
But that was with Jordin Rusnack at quarterback.
“Jordin Rusnack was a phenom quarterback for us,” admitted Sharpe.
With Rusnack graduated it just means opportunities for others arise.
“We don’t have to rebuild anymore. We just reload,” said Sharpe surveying teams from Atom through Bantam also at practice.
So the quarterbacking duties fall to Connor Watrych, a leftie, Sharpe said should put some wrinkles into things with the guidance of offensive coordinator Jason Boyda.
“He’s (Boyda) one of the best offensive coordinators in the province,” said Sharpe, adding he always seems to come up with game plans which allow the offence to be “flashy.”
That said, the offence isn’t likely to be quite as pass happy this season as it was in 2018.
“We might be a little bit more old school and run the ball a bit more,” said Sharpe.
If they go to the run more it is likely to mean more touches for running back Val Declines affectionately known around the team as Pumbaa for his tenacious, tough running style.
Sharpe also expects his offensive line to stand out, being big and tough, which means protection for Watrych, and holes for Declines.
On defence linebacker Brad Heska is going to be a key.
Sharpe said it ultimately comes down to this year’s players taking a step forward,
“Kids change a lot from Grade 10 to Grade 11, and Grade 11 to Grade 12,” he said, adding in the dressing room the message to the players has been simple, players like Rusnack and Gabe Loster are gone; “this is now your team.”
The Raider Gridder season starts Sept. 6, with the annual Friday Night Lights game in the city with Moose Jaw Vanier the visitors.