Hurricanes prepare for storm ahead
September 12, 2013
by Thomas Becker
Charlottetown, PE – They were down 14-7 with a minute and a half remaining in the 2012 AFL championship game. Led by quarterback Nick Hunsley, the Holland College Hurricanes football team made one last push, successfully driving the ball inside the opponent’s 10-yard line. As the clock ticked closer to zeros, a scrambling Hunsley failed to find an open receiver and the pass was picked off, ending the quest for a repeat championship.
Ten months later, hopes are restored, as a new team takes the field in preparation for the 2013 season. But past success is never too far from the minds of everyone involved with the team, especially being two years removed from a championship in 2011. “This program has seen a lot of success since it’s inception four years ago and we don’t want that to change,” said team president Michael O’Grady.
With a large turnover of personnel, the Hurricanes will be without the services of key players in Hunsley, middle linebacker Andrew Oake and wide receiver Robbie Tufts. “We lost some key guys, but the group we have now are very exciting,” said head coach and defensive co-ordinator Mark MacDougall.
MacDougall is looking forward to seeing first-year quarterback Christian Hackney, who was nominated for offensive player of the year in the Canadian Junior Football League, defensive tackle Nicholas Parish from Ottawa, ON, fullback Dan Gallant from Stratford, PE, and kicker Jay Dearborn from Yarker, ON, in action.
With 37 new players on the roster, MacDougall said there will be an adjustment period before they hit their stride.
“My goal as coach is to ensure our last two games are our best two games. Once the players learn the system, everything should take care of itself,” he said. “It’s important to keep the schemes simple and easy to understand, otherwise you’ll lose the players, and the games.”
With their newly-acquired talent, the offence will be considerably quicker. The offense will focus on executing plays faster and more efficiently to keep defences off guard and out of rhythm. “Our scheme is spread offense, very fast, no huddle, with lots of power running,” said offensive lineman and Summerside native, Owen MacWilliams.
With weapons aplenty on the offensive end, the team looks to spread the ball more, to ensure more scoring opportunities. “We won’t have to depend on just two or three guys this year,” MacDougall said.
One of those new weapons is Eugene McMinns, a 20-year-old wide receiver and special teams player from Nassau, Bahamas. He won the decathlon event at the 2012 Bahamas National High School Track and Field Championships, finishing just short of Olympic standards.
The strength of the team is defense and their gap control scheme. Headlining the defence is second-year cornerback Garvin Cius from Malden, MA. He, along with his fellow defensive backs, take pride in their coverage game, allowing the linebackers and defensive linemen to put pressure on quarterbacks. “If the coverages are nice and tight, that keeps the ball in the quarterback’s hands and allows our defense to get sacks and cause some turnovers,” Cius said.
“Everybody is fired up. We made it to the big game last year but we weren’t able to finish. Everyone’s willing to win and we’re taking the necessary steps toward that championship,” Cius said.
Excitement is building as the team prepares for their season debut Saturday against the UNB Saint John Seawolves at 4 p.m. at the Canada Games Stadium in Saint John.
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