After going through a season where the Barsby Bulldogs threw the ball just 17.3 per cent of the time, there is nothing that could sound better to quarterback Brody Taylor than opening up the passing game more.
But that's just the direction head coach Rob Stevenson is going in for the upcoming B.C. High School Football season.
Just don't expect them to look like a CFL team anytime soon.
"We're definitely going to run the football, but we're going to chuck it around," he said.
The Bulldogs opened up camp this weekend and expectations are as high as they have ever been. For Barsby, this is no small deal. The Bulldogs have been one of the top programs in the province for the past decade, and is only a couple of seasons removed from their last AA Varsity championship. But coming off of last year's 27-12 loss to the South Delta Sun Devils in the provincial semifinal, they feel they have some making up to do for last year.
"We've got all the raw material to put together a banner season," said Stevenson. "A lot of things have got to go right, but we're going to be in the mix from start to finish."
Stevenson is not just barking into the wind. He is confident that they have one of the more talented squads ready to hit the field they have had.
This begins with a quarterback battle between Taylor and North Rainey.
Stevenson says no one has separated themselves yet, but the position will be more important this season than it has been in a long time.
In their option heavy offence from last year, the quarterback often was as much a decoy as anything. In 12 games, Brody and Rainey combined to attempt just 101 passes while they ran the ball 482 times.
But with a loaded receiving core the quarterbacks will be asked to shoulder much more of the offence.
Brody smiles just talking about it.
"Ever since my Grade 9 year, when I came into this program, I've always been handing the ball off and not getting to pass as much, and heading into my Grade 12 year getting to air it out, it's really exciting," said the six-foot-four, 250-pound pivot. "We've got a good receiving corps this year and a good O-Line to do it."
The Bulldogs will have their work cut out, however, replacing the likes of running back and linebackers Jacob Odynsky and Dexter Shea and Ryan Dekker.
But this is nothing new. It was last year when that group was looked to replace two of the top players in B.C., Nate Berg and Jordan Kuziek.
This year they will be leaning on offensive linemen Ryan Stratton, Tristan "Petey" Slotte, Brenden Bruce, Tyler Hill and Rylie Harris. Meanwhile, running back Tyler Vollett and Brenden Parker will be looked to for leadership.
Stevenson has been thrilled with the energy through the first week of camp, to the point where he has had to get his players to back off a little or risk not being able to make it through camp.
"It's a very talented football team, and that's a gift, but it can get very competitive in practice," said Stevenson.
"You got to be able to define your practice so that it's not game day every day in practice and that we're learning as well as flying around and being as physical as we can be."
Barsby also has a favourable schedule this year. While their first five games are on the road, they finish the year out at Merle Logan Field in Nanaimo. They will also have the opportunity to make an early statement this year, just like last season when they nearly knocked off the AAA Varsity No. 1 ranked Mount Douglas Rams early on. This year, that game goes on Sept. 6 in Prince George against Lord Tweedsmuir.
"We get to learn how to function on the road and be a bunch of road warriors the first month and when we get people coming to our house in the crisp, cool wet weather, it's going to be a fun October and November for us," said Stevenson.
The Bulldogs open their exhibition season in Prince George against Duchess Park.
Registration for the South Side Minor Football Association is still open, with practices every Tuesday and Thursday from 6-8 p.m. on the Barsby fields. They are looking peewee and bantam aged kids from nine to 13. In the Nanaimo District Secondary School catchment area, they play Mondays and Wednesdays from noon to 1 p.m. In the fall they will go 6-7:30 p.m.
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