Gators take wait and see approach
The Lakeshore Catholic Gators are taking a wait and see approach to this year’s Niagara Catholic Athletic Association senior football season.
“It’s hard to tell because we didn’t play an exhibition game this year,” head coach Bernie Tessier said. “We are going to have some mistakes the first game, but we have a good group of returning players, we have average size on the line, we have some decent skill players, a returning quarterback and good numbers.”
Lakeshore is again running a varsity team this season (combined junior/senior) and it is the second year of doing so. Having a junior program would be nice, but it’s just not in the cards right now.
“There’s a lot of factors involved with that and right now we will see what we can do with our varsity team,” Tessier said. “We have about 43 kids on the roster which allows us to practice effectively and we don’t have to have 12 guys on the field at all times.
“We are looking forward to having a decent season and hopefully we can do the best we can.”
Included on Lakeshore’s roster are 23 players of junior age and many will play.
“We have a number of Grade 10s starting and we might even have one or two Grade 9s starting,” he said. “They are kids who have had some experience at the minor ranks so it’s not like you are putting a kid in who has never played football before.”
The team boasted a solid corps of Grade 9s last year and all of them have returned to the team this season.
“We’ve worked with them in the off-season and they have come back with more confidence and they are bigger and stronger,” Tessier said. “They can contribute as Grade 10s and we have another decent group of Grade 9s this year so the future looks pretty good.”
Lakeshore has built its numbers with an off-season weight training program and a football course that is taught second semester at the school.
“We take our younger players, we put them in the course and they are able to work on their development and skills in the off-season,” Tessier said. “It’s like a gym class, but it’s football specific.”
Lakeshore has been running the program for at least four years and Tessier has seen the benefits of it.
“You can see a difference, for sure,” he said. “We are going to encourage the Grade 9s to take the course because there’s huge advantages for players taking that class.”
“It’s building for next year and they get to practice every day.”
Keying the offence for the Gators this season will be fifth-year quarterback Cory Vasquez.
“We are looking forward to his leadership and his athleticism, and he’s really stepped it up as far as his attitude and leadership,” Tessier said. “We are looking forward to a good season from him.”
On defence, the Gators have welcomed the return of Andre Lafleur after a one-year absence.
“I don’t know why he didn’t play last year, but we felt his absence,” Tessier said. “He has been out every day and he provides great leadership and skills, and he is one of these kids where his motor is always running real hot.
“He likes to put a lot of effort forward, he’s encouraging to the other players and he has a great spirit for football.”
Lafleur will suit up at linebacker or defensive end for the Gators.