SUMMERSIDE – “Friday Night Lights” returns to Summerside as the P.E.I. Varsity Football Tackle League season begins.
The Summerside Cooke Insurance Clippers will host the Souris Wildcats in an 8 p.m. kickoff at Eric Johnston Field.
The Clippers have won the Potato Bowl the last three seasons, but are expecting a very competitive season from the three other entries in the four-team league, which includes the Wildcats, Cornwall Timberwolves and the return of the Charlottetown Privateers after a one-year leave of absence.
“I hear that all three teams have good numbers this season, which is very encouraging for the league,” commented Clippers head coach John Turner. “I expect this season to be very competitive.”
The Clippers are expecting a tough game against the Wildcats as they have a full complement of players this season, and will bring physicality.
“We have a big target on our backs winning the last three seasons, so everyone is out to knock us off this year,” said Turner. “We have to bring the intensity on Friday night, and it’s about getting better every week.
“I’m sure we will make some mistakes in our first game with our young team, but as long as we improve and learn from our mistakes is what’s important.”
Lost 15 players
Summerside lost 15 players to graduation, but have a number of players from the Spartans’ bantam program make the jump to the varsity level.
“I wouldn’t say we are rebuilding, just retooling this season,” added Turner. “Our scheme might be different from last season, but at the end of the day our team is built around our defence and our team speed on defence and running the football and protecting the ball.”
Senior running back Caleb Dawson leads the offence while sophomore Nic Gunning will handle the quarterback duties. Dawson, who is also Summerside’s kicker and punter, can also motion out and play slot receiver.
“Caleb is a multi-dimensional player for us, and we will utilize him and his skills at many positions on offence,” said Clippers offensive co-ordinator Mike Miller. “He has a very high football IQ, and is our leader on offence.”
Defensively, the Clippers’ front six will dictate the defensive scheme developed by defensive co-ordinator Jeff MacDonald and assistant coach Brian Doucet.
“Our defence is led by our linebackers, Brayden Lawless and Dexter Stewart, and a five-player rotation on the D-line,” said MacDonald. “We will get pressure on the quarterback, and our ball pursuit will be strong with our team speed.”
Summerside Clippers’ varsity team roster:
3. Ethan Haakman
9. Nic Gunning
13. Charlie Turner
21. Caleb Dawson
22. Finn Turner
24. Drake Gallant
28. Michael Friesen
32. Daniel Moase
37. Jacob Mantie
41. Alex McGrath
47. Luke Trainor
51. Brayden Lawless
55. Dexter Stewart
56. Breton Brown
58. Dakota Fear
60. Jayden Ryder-Clements
64. Nathaniel Mueller
69. Tristan Zaparanuik
75. Connor Murphy
77. Paul Wambolt
80. Spencer Haakman
88. Kyle Cameron
89. Alex Campbell
95. Ryan Murphy
97. Kyle Wilson