AA Varsity Way Too Early Top Ten
We have not even come close to spring ball yet, but I figure it would be fun to take a look at programs across the province now that the 2013 dust has settled, build a ranking as best as can be done and then see what traction strength and speed training, camps, spring ball, 7's etc. gain en-route to September. Lots of development between now and "The Happy Time" (Football Season).
GI's Way Too Eary Top 10
The gulf between the top twelve teams is the narrowest perhaps ever in the history of the AA ranks. It is very plausablethat by the opening round of the playoff tourney this year that several teams ranked 12-20 will be mid-to-high seeds in the big dance! Its just that close folks.
1. Mission: The Roadrunners won it all in 2012 JV play. Jesse Walker and crew have spent the past two years on the development curve that is one of Mission's enduring strengths as a program. The offensive and defensive schemes along with specials have been consistent as well. This will translate to big plays, a favourable turnover ratio and importantly, the ability to innovate and tweak week to week without losing their collective football soul. The wilcard in the whole mix will be at the coaching level with an internal shuffle taking place. These guys are solid however an it should be smooth sailing all round.
2. Vernon: The second best collection of pure athletes in the province resides at Vernon Secondary. These guys have it all, size, speed, toughness and importantly, a lot of playoff experience the past three years. This will be a throwback team that likes to play plenty of smashmouth between the TE's. Play action is going to cause opposing defenses fits! Built as such, my pick to win the Interior is going to host a couple playoff rounds in the cold weather which is just their cup of steaming black coffee! From there it is likely off to the semi's and a good chance at the big game. I am looking forward to keeping an eye on these fellas across the season of play.
3. Argyle: If Vernon has the number two rated roster, then here folks resides number one. This varsity squad gal dang it, is loaded top to bottom. The Pipers have played together since their elementry school days and done so with the same leadership on the bench throughout. This will be the break-out year on the North Shore and I believe on the provincial stage for this crew. What makes em fearsome in the late rounds is back-to back JV semi-final appearances and their depth, depth, depth. These guys by virtue of their big numbers, will be less ground-up than their playoff opponents due to the ability to platoon athletes. Further, big playoff games are now old hat. The biggest challenge for Argyle in 2014 will be the reflection in their collective mirror. Style points at some point can elbow substance far enough out of the picture that one can get snake bit. I think they can master big expectations in the end.
4. Abbottsford: Big, nasty, motivated for a big year, the Panthers could very well run the table in their own division and then light up the playoffs to follow. This is the crew that plowed its way to the final game in 2012 and it has much like Mission, grown across the past two years. If I were to pick a weakness, it may be defensive finesse, but that is a long shot. The man running the show at Abbey is solid and his squad will be a reflection of the boss. Offensively, the power running game beckons and the defense ought to be a reflection thereof. I think late season depth could be a concern so a healthy regular season is something to take note of in terms of whether these guys are able to finish on all cylinders.
5. Barsby: From Bulldogs to Redbugs...there will certainly be a drop off in terms of size in just about every position. This said, the work-ethic, fighting mentality and team quickness are right up there with any group of predecessors hailing from "The Cage". The coaching staff returns intact and much like Mission, there is mental continuity in all phases of the game within the roster. So what will this crew bring to the field come game day? Likely an even more up-tempo offense that pressures across a wider portion of the field vertically and horizontally that hasn't completely forgotten its smash mouth roots. Defensively, "base" may not be quite so "base" either. "Pride and Joy" special teams will surely be amped-up to fill any voids left by graduating offensive and defensive talent. The wild-card at Barsy will be the role that brand new players to the game are going to play as the season develops. There is some new in-school talent that is coming out for ball and if these guys can wade into the battle by mid-season and give a frenzied account of themselves, playoffs could be interesting.
6. Ballenas: The Whalers could be under ranked in this poll. They have arguably one of the top three quarterbacks in the province returning along with a complete supporting cast up front, in the backfield and on the perimeter. Defensively, they again are strong at every position. A finalist at JV play in 2013, the Whalers know how to get it done and are accompanied by a hunger for redemption. This program along with Windsor, does an exceptional job of playing up their JV's and many of the tenth and eleventh graders on this year's roster have plenty of varsity game experience. Depth is likely not a big concern in 14. Look no further than week three this season vs Barsby to see how for real this crew is.
7. Carson Graham: A great many players return from the squad that came within seconds of winning it all last year. The big caveat is just how many of these players filled key roles on that team and just how much collective starting experience do they all have? Is there another AJ Blackwell suiting up? Lucas Bill is back, but is he running behind another superb line as he did last year or is there a big development curve ahead up front. Who is the surrounding cast? A lot of the Western Conference is paying a whole lot of attention to these questions and for that matter, a whole lot of the province. The coaching staff will return and a lot of tough as nails duel sport rugby-football athletes will be out for ball, so you can bet there will be no pushovers wearing white and red. Ultimately, I believe this is a playoff team who much like Barsby, will have to do some tweaking and re-inventing to play big consistently when it counts.
8. GW Graham: The Grizzlies will roll on the field in front of some of the biggest crowds in BC every Friday night at their stadium. There is huge excitement coming off of their 2013 provincial title at JV and a veteren feel to the roster. The talent, particularly at the Receiver/RB position may be the best in BC. The question mark here if there is one, is what will the offensive line develop into and how will the defense fare vs radically different offensive attacks week to week in the ultra competitive Eastern conference. Look for a move towards power football offensively and even that offense your granddaddy warned you about, the single wing. There has been a massive reorganization internally of the coaching staff and this requires a careful look at how this will project itself onto the practice and playing fields of 2014. The unwary opponent could get steamrolled beyond recovery by the early second quarter should they prepare themselves with visions of past bears in mind.
9. Seaquam: The varsity here made some strides in 13 and the JV's has serious talent, size and speed. The question remains, can this group find unity and will the various parts of the machine be mutually supporting? One thing for sure, there is plenty to work with on the practice field and with the Southern Conference being wide open this year, a high playoff seed is a distinct possibility with this crew. Offensively, some key questions have to be asked: Spread or Power? Is a mix possible? I have my thoughts, but will keep em close to the vest because if the coaching staff gets it right, this will be a very tough group to contend with indeed.
10. Robert Bateman: This group on balance, could very well be the best version of the Varsity Timberwolves in memory. I see a lot more power type football coming from Bateman with a defense that is a mirror reflection. If that is the case, these fellas could make a big run at the conference title and beyond.
The Rest Of The Pack
12. Pitt Meadows
13. Duchess Park
15. Frank Hurt
17. Hugh Boyd
18. Nanaimo District
19. Holy Cross
20. Clarence Fulton
21. Rick Hansen
23. Prince George
24. Nechako Valley
26. College Heights
27. Samuel Roberts
29. Mt. Baker
2014 Dark Horses
Hugh Boyd: This crew is experienced and has been well led throughout their g.8-10 careers. Boyd played tough at varsity to finish in 13 and will have that momentum as a program headed into spring ball. Their division is wide open this year and some early W's will build confidence. Confidence and hope cannot be understated in terms of HS kids.
Moscrop: The Panthers could have played great ball at AA last year and the majority of their "studs" are back this coming season. This group includes a young fella who will get a lot of attention at the RB position in 2014. The group moving up from JV is very talented. I see a big season in the wide-open South for this team.
Valleyview: A program headed in the right direction, Valleyview spent 2013 learning how to travel and scrap on the road. The team has unity and a lot more toughness headed into the 2014 season than all but one of its predecessors. Look for a minimum second place finish in the Interior and hec, maybe better.
Windsor: The Dukes will improve dramatically week to week and will not make many mistakes. There are some tough backs and a very good lineman to build around. Sloppy opponents will be left kicking rocks up the road muttering about what could have been from mid-season onwards.
Nanaimo District: A provincial semi-finalist at JV two years ago, this group, if it could ever find unity and realize that the ultimate statistic is the number they leave on the scoreboard and that this is largely a reflection of the cumulative days of practice preceding each week, week after week, well it could surprise itself and opponents along the way. There are serious potential playmakers on the roster. They just have to play for each other. The grass is plenty green on their side of the fence. Wonder if they will ever see that?