Tuesday, August 9, 2016

GI's 2016 Pre-Season Special

2016 AA Varsity

Ranking The Conferences

1. Western Conference: Top to bottom the Western Conference is filled with very competitive teams/programs.   A great Carson Graham program moved on to AAA ball, but was replaced by a Seaquam program that dominated at JV last year and tied for first in the AAA Pacific.  Barsby has won the conference title six years running and that streak is in definite jeopardy this year as Windsor has its finest team in years along with Ballenas and Nanaimo District.  Hugh Boyd is always tough and Frank Hurt is no slouch either.  Every week this year will count big-time out West.

2. Eastern Conference: Langley has grown roots and has emerged as a powerhouse provincially.  A lot of community players have found their way to the school and they are a quantum leap better than the team that played in last year's semi-final.  Not far off is the Abbottsford Panthers and the G.W. Graham Grizzlies.  The top three in the East can chuck the football at an elite level and all three have potent running games.  Abbey and Graham in fact, may have the number one and two running backs in BC this year.  Holy Cross is not far out of the mix and as a program, has demonstrated that it is on the rise the past two years.  Pitt Meadows and Robert Bateman are a drop off, but only in terms of depth.  These two squads compete hard every week and are coached

3. Okanagen Conference: There is Vernon and then there is the rest.  The Panthers are a provincial level powerhouse and are in for a breakthrough year sooner rather than later in terms of playing in the big game.  The rise of the Vernon program is good for the rest of the division as the rest of the pack has not been complacent in terms of raising their game to challenge the front-runner.   This conference is headed up as opposed to down.

4. Northern Conference: The rivalry for decades in just about any sport has been between PGSS and Duchess Park up North.  This is true for football of late as the Condors and Polars trade gridiron blows for poll position in the playoffs.   Prince George has been hit hard with graduation, but it has a lot of program momentum coming off of a BCSSFA playoff win last fall.   Duchess has the depth this year with a big group moving up to varsity play.   These two should battle hard in league play and will likely play for top rail entering the playoffs.  The rest of the pack will scrap it out with Nechako Valley always a threat to make waves when they are in an up-cycle in terms of roster depth.

Projected Conference Standings

Western Conference

1. Seaquam
2. Barsby
3. Windsor
4. Ballenas
5. Nanaimo District
6. Hugh Boyd
7. Frank Hurt

Eastern Conference

1. Langley
2. Abbottsford
3. G.W. Graham
4. Holy Cross
5. Pitt Meadows
6. Robert Bateman

Okanagen Conference

1. Vernon
2. South-Kamloops
3. Westsyde
4. Clarence Fulton
5. Valleyview
6. W.L. Seaton

Northern Conference

1. Duchess Park
2. Prince George
3. Kelly Road
4. Nechako Valley
5. College Heights
7. D.P. Todd
6. Correlieu

GI's Pre-Season Top Ten

Well gang, this may be the greatest assemblage of high quality AA football squads in a top ten raking since well, ever.  The parity in the league is indeed something to behold.  When the final whistle blows in BC Place, any one of these teams could be celebrating!  The kicker is, someone from outside the top ten could make a run for all the marbles too!

What's it going to take to succeed in 2016?  Health down the stretch for sure.  The West and the East are going to meat-grinders.  Particularly the West as there is by far, a heavier run emphasis and than their Eastern rivals. The teams that get out of league play in to the playoffs that are not completely beat to hec, will be in a good place when the "Gales of November Come Calling".

1. Langley Saints: Various sources report that there has been a massive move of  regional community ball players to the Langley program.  This is a burgeoning AA super-power in the making as many key factors are in place.  The school is located in prime football country: affordable housing for new families; lots of grass roots ball at the younger ages; superb facility and of course, a darn good coaching staff.  Things are only headed up for this program.  Check-out the JV roster on the BCSSFA site.  Big numbers, big bodies and the table is set for a lot of future re-loads.  Last year's playoff success was no fluke and look for these guys to pick-up where they left off with provincial calibre talent across the board.

2. Seaquam SeaHawks: The "Hawks" are similar to Langley in terms of the calibre of talent that is embedding itself at all levels of the program.  The success of the G.8 squad and JV squad bode well for these guys.  There is solid coaching throughout and those moving-up to varsity will be welcomed by a tough, talented veteran crew who played themselves to the top of the AAA Pacific conference last season.  The school size is at the limits of the AA-AAA threshold and new additions from abroad turbocharge this already deep talent pool.

3. Abbottsford Panthers: Abbottsford's ascendancy to the title game last year was an example of years of program building reaching fruition.  This group was by no means a one trick pony en-route to the big dance last year and much talent remains to welcome an outstanding group of JV's moving-up.  I think that the offensive balance in terms of run-pass is even better than the 2015 group.  A very strong conference will produce a fire-hardened football spear by season's end.

4. G.W. Graham Grizzlies: Graham's offense is going to score points by the bushel in 2016.  It is a toss-up between this crew and Abbey in terms of who is in possession of the top passing game in BC this year.  The Grizzlies are again huge up-front and have a monster running-back to sobre-up any defense that thinks it is going put all its eggs in pass defense.  The Grizzly defense will be a reflection of its offensive self.  Depth may be the only question mark here.

5. John Barsby Bulldogs: The "Dawgs" are in a massive re-build this year.  The only group even remotely returning intact is up front on the offensive line.  Every other position group on both sides of the ball is new.  This said, there is talent on the roster and the potential for some lethality by early-mid season.  The opening two games vs AAA Mt. Douglas and the Interior monster known as the Vernon Panthers will lead up to a big opening divisional tilt vs Ballenas.  Sweat, blood and ice are on the menu this September.

Vernon Panthers: The Panthers reload in 16 in their quest for not only another divisional title, but a playoff run that ends in a Subway Bowl appearance. This group is uniquely equipped to do just that as they are loaded across the board.  A week two road trip to Barsby sets the stage for great things to follow.

7. Windsor Dukes:  Seventh ranking for Windsor is probably right as of week one or two.  The Dukes, like clockwork  start a bit slow every year and then gain massive traction around week three. Perfect timing it would seem as that is when divisional play starts.  This program historically gets better, more consistently week-to-week than almost anyone else in AA ball.  This will be frightening in 2016 as for the first time in years, there is a considerable amount of varsity talent that has spent at least two years in the system.  Windsor is my not so Dark Horse pick to win it's division and possibly run the post-season table.

8. Ballenas Whalers: If the Whalers stay healthy in 2016 they will be exceptional. They are BIG up front and have all the pieces to play with any program in BC.  This group of athletes has run deep in the JV playoffs the past several years and as a group, knows how to play in the big games as they arise.  Ballenas will challenge as well as any group in their division for top rail come week nine.

9. Nanaimo District Islanders: The Islanders are big, deep in talent/experience and have a superb qb/receiver group on their hands.  By the time this team hits divisional play, it will be on a roll, mark my words.  If the defense plays on par with what the offense is capable of producing, look out folks!

10. Holy Cross Crusaders: These guys can pound the ball this year and that mind-set will reverberate and be mirrored defensively.  I think they will be able to get their opponents in to one dimensional games more often than not.  The ability to defend the pass and maximize team speed will be the key to divisional success in the very competitive East.  Don't count em out.

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