Rams Gear Up for Another Successful Season on the Gridiron

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Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)

May 13, 2015, Victoria, BC (ISN) – At a break in the Mount Douglas Rams spring football practice and media day Wednesday, it was interesting to hear Head Coach Mark Townsend talk about his team’s chances in the upcoming 2015 BC High School football season and how he wants to be well prepared for the Lower Mainland powerhouses he will face. What he forgets however, perhaps by design, is that it is the Lower Mainland teams that should be preparing for the powerhouse that is the Mount Douglas Rams.

The Mount Douglas Rams spring camp is a great chance for young players to make their mark and grab a spot on the Varsity team for 2015 (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Townsend is entering his 12th season behind the helm with the Rams and to say he has had some pretty good success would be an understatement. His Senior Varsity AAA teams have made it to the Subway Bowl Provincial Championship game four years in a row, winning three straight (2011, 2012 and 2013) before being knocked off in last year’s finale 55-30 by South Delta.

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Entering his 12th season as Varsity Head Coach, Mark Townsend has turned the Rams into a BC High School football powerhouse (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The Junior Varsity team has also thrived of late, winning the Provincial title in 2010 and making the championship game in 2011, only to lose to St. Thomas More.

That kind of success is unprecedented. While two other teams, Richmond (1996-1998) and Notre Dame (1987-1989) have won three titles in a row, the Rams are only the second team to have played in four straight games, the last being Vancouver College, who only won two of them, between 1991-1994. And in the past two years, the Rams have graduated 15 players who are now playing at the Canadian or U.S. college level, an impressive number to say the least.

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Players go through some footwork drills at spring camp practice Wednesday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

It is perhaps Townsend’s humility and philosophy however, that keeps the Rams program strong and allows the team to perform at peak levels every year. Prepare as if you were an underdog, take nothing for granted, never be satisfied, prepare to beat the best and you will BE the best.

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Receiver hopefuls get in a little practice at the Mt. Doug Rams spring camp on Wednesday (Photos:Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

“We are always trying to improve the program,” said Townsend. “If you ever become satisfied with where you’re at, then you’ve got a problem. We always review what we are doing both on the field and off (players, coaching, budget, equipment, etc.) and look for ways to improve. We want our kids to enjoy success on the field. We want them to always stay hungry and never be satisfied with where they are at. We want to stay competitive. We’ve been able to get that across to the kids and they continue to work hard and with that, we continue to have success.”

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Under the watchful eye of coaches and other players, linemen hopefuls go through a rigorous double-team drill Wednesday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

That kind of attitude certainly worked in 2014, when the Rams – who at the end of 2013 graduated almost 20 players, including nine who went on to play at the college level – were expected to be in a rebuilding mode, but then went on to a 9-0 exhibition and league record (their best ever in school history), averaged 35 points per game and battled their way into the Subway Bowl final before losing to South Delta. And it will be an attitude that the Rams will need to carry forward this year, having lost 15 players from last year’s team to graduation, if they are to find themselves in BC Place in Vancouver next December for the fifth straight year.

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The photographer gets a quarteback point of view of what a charging lineman looks like (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

“We definitely don’t consider last year, or this year, for that matter, a rebuilding year,” said Townsend. “Instead we prefer to call it a “reload.” I think this year we are in a similar situation as last year and are simply reloading the squad with a large number of talented athletes who are moving from Grade 11 to 12 and also moving up from JV. Yes, our team will be smaller than last, but we will be athletic and hardworking and if we can fulfil a number of smaller goals that we have set for ourselves and stay competitive with the Lower Mainland powerhouses, then we will be okay.”

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Players look to improve their speed with a series of footwork drills Wednesday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Those goals for the season are pretty simple and begin with Townsend and his coaching staff looking for their players to improve their strength and speed during spring camp and over the summer. “We test the kids at the start of camp and again in the fall,” said Townsend, “and I know with the way the kids are working in the weight room and on the track, that we will see great improvement there.”

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With continued hard work, the Rams can once again reach unprecedented heights in 2015 (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Following that, Townsend wants the Rams to be competitive in all their games, exhibition and onward, win the Conference title and then have success in the playoffs. “Certainly the Subway Bowl is a lofty goal to attain,” said Townsend, “but if we can achieve those initial smaller goals then the Subway Bowl becomes a nice pinnacle and reward at the end of things.”

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More blocking practice for the offensive line (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

To reach that goal, Townsend and his coaching staff will be relying on their veterans to continue to improve and have successful seasons, most notably the highly recruited Gavin Cobb, a talented two-way player, who will see time at quarterback, as well as receiver and defensive back. “Gavin is certainly one of our blue-chip players,” noted Townsend, “and one who can have a huge impact on either side of the ball. He is being heavily recruited and is always the first guy schools who call ask about.”

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Linebackers and defensive backs go through a combined footwork and receiving drill (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Cobb will likely share the quarterbacking duties with Manny Lopez and both will be protected by standout linemen such as Tristen Waters and Aidan Kachanoski, while 2014 All-Star Oliver Mackenzie will anchor the defence.

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A little bit of receiving and defending practice at camp on Wednesday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

As to the rest, time will tell who will step up for the Rams this season. The spring camp is the first step towards that and is a great time for Townsend and his coaching staff to evaluate not only existing players, but those who are new to the Mount Douglas Rams program. It is also a great time for Townsend and his staff to begin instilling in the young players the philosophy that has been so successful over the years.

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Head Coach Mark Townsend: “We want our kids to stay hungry and never be satisfied with where they are at. We want to stay competitive. We’ve been able to get that across to the kids and they continue to work hard and with that, we continue to have success.” (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

“We are certainly blessed with outstanding players in our program,” noted Townsend, “but I think a key aspect to their success has to do with how we as coaches engage and show interest in them. If the kids know that you are interested in them, then they in turn, are interested in working hard and putting the effort in and abiding by our philosophy. I really enjoy that aspect of coaching here, the relationship building and motivation, and then watching how that ultimately leads to their success on the field.”

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Tackling, an important skill to have in football, was practiced thoroughly in this drill Wednesday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The Rams will open their 2015 football season with an exhibition game in Mt. Tahoma, Washington on Sep. 4, followed by exhibition games in Victoria against Mt. Boucherie on Sep. 12 and Lord Tweedsmuir on Sep. 19 and another in Nanaimo against John Barsby on Sep. 25. They open their regular season on Oct. 9 when they host Notre Dame at either Goudy Field or Royal Athletic Park.

See these and more images from the Rams Spring Camp on Christian J. Stewart’s web site at http://christianjstewart.zenfolio.com/p1012562445

Follow Christian J. Stewart on Twitter at @cjs_photography and ISN at @islandsports1.

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