With just over a week until the regular season kicks off, optimism abounds in all 6 BCFC training camps, at least on the surface. Each head coach seems confident in the talent his club has assembled, and while expectations may be different from team to team, every-one appears confident their team will be at least as good as 2016.
Talk is cheap and expectations of success mean little in sports as it’s all about what happens on game day on the pitch, court, diamond, ice, or in this case the grid-iron. So, what can we expect to see this season and what teams will be in the playoffs come October? And, which teams will be on the outside looking in?
Perhaps no one better to ask than former Valley Huskers head coach and Okanagan Sun GM Howie Zaron. Currently offensive coordinator for the North Surrey Bears Midget program and an assistant coach with Team BC that just finished third in the Canada Cup, Zaron watches the BCFC and follows the talent throughout western Canada in high school and midget as closely as anyone.
We put Zaron on the spot and asked him to place the 6 teams in order of finish this season. Here is what he had to say;
6th Place-Valley Huskers
While Zaron feels the Huskers will finish in the basement again in 2017, he has only positive things to say about how the valley squad will compete this season.
“I think Chilliwack will be the best last place team the BCFC has seen in a while. I think this will be the best coached team the Huskers have had since they were awarded a franchise.”
Zaron says a rookie to watch for the Huskers this is running back Keenan Vicklund (Robert Bateman Secondary-Abbotsford)
5th Place-Kamloops Broncos
Zaron is less bullish on the prospects for improvement in Kamloops this season as he says the Broncos will miss the play-offs for a second straight season. He cites lack of balance on both sides of the ball as a reason the club will miss the post season.
“Kamloops once again will have a very good offense, but offensive line and the defense overall is going to be an issue. They will have a high-octane offense if they can protect Henkel (quarterback Coby), but the question is can they stop the other team from scoring?”
He says Bronco fans can expect to see the rookie of the year at Hillside again this year after Henkel turned the trick in 2016. You heard it here first that receiver Maximilian Joseph (North Langley Midgets) will add to his trophy case this year.
4th Place-VI Raiders
The Raiders, led by new head coach and long- time defensive coordinator Doug Hocking will be in the play-offs for the 13th straight year since the franchise arrived in Nanaimo but will not make any strides, at least in terms of play-off positioning this season.
“VI will be a solid team. I think they will be able to upset some of the teams at the top but they can also be beaten by teams below them. They have some good young talent coming in, I like Zander Baily (running back-Terry Fox).
“They will be a well coached team again, I just don’t think they are at the talent level of the top 3.”
3rd Place-Westshore Rebels
Some eye brows will likely be raised by Zaron’s opinion that the defending champs will fall two places, and he says he expects to hear about it. He chuckled when he said Rebels assistant coach John Cardilicchia will be calling him to grill him on his team’s slight.
Zaron chalks the Rebels issues up mainly on the loss of a mobile, versatile quarterback and exceptional running back.
“I know Charly Cardilicchia has gone east and recruited some really high level talent, but that being said they lose their starting quarterback (Ashton Mackinnon) and they lose the best player in all of Canadian amateur football (running back Jamel Lyles.)
Zaron provided some bulletin board motivation for the man who shared the back field with Lyles last year and will be the feature back this year, Trey Campbell.
“Trey Campbell is a hell of a running back, but he’s not Jamel Lyles.”
2nd Place-Okanagan Sun
Zaron slots the Sun back where the club left on in 2016 when he puts them in second place and in the play-off for the 36th consecutive season. He says the Sun defense will cause issues for opposing offences again this year. But, like with the Huskers, he sees balance as a question mark.
“The Sun will have one of the best defences in the league, but they might have question marks at the quarterback and offensive line positions. I know the Sun will disagree with me, but we will see.”
Zaron is bullish in rookie running back Tanner Sudo (Lethbridge).
1st Place-Langley Rams
Zaron picks the Rams to make the most strides of any BCFC teams this year, at least in terms of where they finish as he predicts Langley to jump from 3rd place this year.
“I think the Rams will be the most balanced club in the league this year. I think they are going to have good special teams, a good offense and I think they will have the number one defence in the league.
“The Rams have a lot of good returning players. This is the first time in probably 4 years I was at a Rams spring camp where I can say that looks like a really good football team.”
Zaron says defensive lineman Adam Marchetti will have an all-star season in leading the Rams surge to first place.
Zaron seemed to give himself some leeway in case he proves wrong in the order of his predicted finishing, at least when it comes to the top three clubs. He says there is little to choose between the Rams, Sun and Rebels and that junior fans should expect a real dogfight this year.
“I think those teams are all real close. We could easily have three teams with identical records when it’s over and the third place team coming out of the conference.”
We will check in with Zaron come play-off time to see how his prognosticating talents were.