SUMMERSIDE – There will be two major changes when the Summerside Waterwise Spartans hit the field for the upcoming P.E.I. Bantam Football League season.
The defending champions will open training camp at the Summerside Intermediate School field on Tuesday, Aug. 19. The first session will go from 2:30 to 4:15 p.m.
One big change for the 2014 season is age requirements. The league will now feature players from Grade 7 to 9. Last year, players in Grade 10 were allowed to play in the bantam league, but those individuals will now make the jump to the P.E.I. Varsity Tackle Football League.
To be eligible to play for the Spartans, players must be born in 2000, 2001 and 2002.
"We are looking to field another competitive team in the growing bantam league, but there will be some growing pains for ourselves and other teams in the league as many teams due to the age change won't have many returning players," commented Spartans head coach John Turner.
Another major change resulting from the league’s growth to five teams is games will now feature eight players on the field instead of six, which had been the format for the league’s first four years.
"This is exciting as we can get more players on the field, and we can run more standard formations on both sides of the ball," said Turner.
The Spartans will have four players returning – offensive lineman Brayden Rodgerson, quarterback Owen Turner, receiver Blake Gallant and linebacker Colton Perry. These players, noted Turner, are going to be counted on heavily, with the nucleus of the team being players from the Spartans’ atom program.
"Our atom program over the last two years will provide us with another 15 or so players, and a number of players who have played flag football in the spring are also going to give the tackle game a chance,” said Turner. “We should be competitive, but I'm sure there will be many bumps along the way." added Turner.
One area the Spartans have continuity in is coaching. Turner is pleased to announced the entire staff, also including Paul Power, Cody MacKay, Jeff MacDonald and Brian Doucette, from the last four years will be back.
"We are very fortunate that all our coaching staff is back for another season,” said Turner. “These guys put in many hours in practice and with game preparation.
“We all have our own strengths, and the bottom line is we are all on the same page in terms of what we want to achieve with this football program."
The regular season gets underway the Sept. 5th weekend, and Cornwall, Souris/Montague, Charlottetown and Amherst, N.S., will join the Spartans in the five-team league.