Golden Eagles back in Tier 2
Last season, the Thorold Golden Eagles made a successful debut in Niagara Region High School Athletic Association Tier 1 football.
The Dirty Birds, as the team is sometimes known as, finished fourth in regular season play with a 2-3 record before losing to Sir Winston Churchill in the quarter-finals. The team was competitive in every game with the exception of a one-sided loss to the eventual champions from A.N. Myer.
One year later, the team is back in Tier 2 where it is always a threat to win a championship.
“Part of it is a numbers game — we lost a lot of our seniors that we felt we could be competitive with — and part of it is only being a varsity program is that we struggle to get juniors in,” Thorold head coach Duane Kemp said. “A lot of them didn’t have experience. Going against some of those big, strong 18- and 19-year-olds who are in the weight room 24/7 365 (days), it makes things a little bit more difficult.”
The Golden Eagles enjoyed 2017, but weren’t ready for another dose of Tier 1 football.
“We loved the challenge last year and we would love to get to a point where we could do it regularly, but for the program and to get more players in and getting game reps, it is good for us to go down,” Kemp said.
The ability to move up and down is a good system to have in place.
“Our main goal is participation and trying to have as many kids playing high school football or sports in general,” he said. “If we would have went up again, we would have been losing numbers again.”
The ultimate goal at Thorold is to have a junior football program, which makes a school’s senior squad that much more competitive.
This past Monday marked the second week of regular training camp at Thorold.
“It’s a work in progress which is similar to every other year,” Kemp said. “Like other schools, we tried to run a mini-camp to deal with the conditioning so that this week we could try and start more of the install (of plays).
“With kids working and stuff, it made things a little more difficult last week.”
Kemp knows the process takes time.
“We are trying to talk about the journey and the process and we are not going to win a championship Week 1, but the whole idea is to get better each and every week.”
Tyler Broderick, a third-year player, likes what he is seeing.
“So far, we have looked really good, in my opinion,” he said. “Last year being in the higher division, we were getting beat up a little bit and guys were getting down and it kind of caused some rifts on the team.
“This year, it seems like guys are gelling better and it should translate to good results on the field.”
One player who will play a key role in Thorold’s chances of having good results is Broderick. He has been the quarterback at Thorold since an injury at that position thrust him into the role during the championship game in his Grade 10 year.
In 2018, Broderick will be suiting up at wide receiver and safety for the Golden Eagles.
“We have Yvan Canlas now who looks like he is ready to do a pretty good job at QB and this is a way to let Tyler play all over the field,” Kemp said. “He will play a little more safety, a little more special teams and hopefully we can use his athleticism a little bit more.”
Broderick is much more than just an athlete for Thorold.
“The biggest thing about Tyler is he is a leader,” Kemp said. “He works his butt off in practice and the others can follow his lead.”
The 5-foot-11, 150-pounder is ready to take on more of a leadership role.
“I took over the starting position at quarterback when I was in Grade 10 and it goes along with being a quarterback; you have to have a little more leadership and it is something I took on early,” he said. “I am really comfortable with it now.”
Broderick is looking forward to playing on both sides of the ball.
“I like being able to go out there and think a little less, have a little more fun and get the ball.”
He is more than happy to give up the role of quarterback.
“For me, it’s just about being on the field and I don’t care what spot I am in,” Broderick said. “It’s just getting to play the game.”
He’s particularly excited about the chance to play defence as a starter for the first time in his high school football career.
“I got to play defence on one series last year and this gives me the opportunity to play more spots,” he said.
His offensive background will help on defence.
“I am going to be playing safety so my experience playing quarterback will allow me to read other teams’ quarterbacks a little easier.”
He has aspirations to play football at the next level and know he has some work to do to get there.
“With being in a new position, I am going to have to learn that role, improve my football IQ and get smarter with the game.”