Spears hit the ground running
The Niagara Spears are already hard at work preparing for the upcoming Ontario Provincial Football League season.
Last Saturday marked the third weekend of indoor workouts at Youngs Sportsplex in Welland.
The workouts will continue until March 30 when the varsity, junior varsity and bantam teams move their preparations outside to Kiwanis Field in St. Catharines.
It is the second year of more team-oriented workouts where actual prepping for the season is done and systems are installed.
“If you look at the way it is set up, we have six weeks of practices before our first game so if we can get 10 weeks of install in and get them in shape, it’s a lot better,” varsity head coach Brian Duguay said.
The additional preparations paid clear dividends in 2019.
“It made a big difference,” he said. “We were crisper off the hop, the players understood the concepts on defence and offence, they understood the plays that were called and we didn’t seem to be slow.
“We weren’t a step behind which was nice.”
To pull off the indoor workouts requires plenty of commitment, not just from the players. Last Saturday, all 14 varsity coaches and all 10 junior varsity coaches were on hand to put the players through drills and give first-hand instruction.
So far this winter, there are 63 varsity players and 48 junior varsity players attending workouts.
“This year, we are really blessed because we probably have 95 per cent of the best players in the Niagara region here,” Duguay said.
They are coming to take advantage of what the Spears have to offer.
“Over the years, the players are seeing all the players who have moved on and that we are able to help the high school coaches help them progress to the next level,” Duguay said. “We are fortunate here that we have coaches for every position.”
The varsity Spears fielded a young squad last season and the 35 returning players should provide a strong nucleus in 2020.
“We are expecting a really good year this year,” Duguay said. “We have got some big players at important positions.”
Key to the team’s chances this season is an impressive offensive line.
“Our offensive line is going to be comparable to a university offensive line,” he said. “They are all close to six feet tall or higher and they weigh 280 (pounds) and up.”
Registration is still open for all three teams and interested players can sign up by clicking on the ad on the BPSN website to going directly to http://www.niagaraspears.ca.
“We are still at the point where we have some room,” Duguay said. “There are guys who are working every Saturday and we understand that.”
Last season: the Spears varsity squad went 4-4 in the regular season and missed the playoffs; the junior varsity was 3-5 in the regular season and lost to London in the first round of the playoffs; and, the bantams went 0-8 during the regular season and also lost to London in the first round of the playoffs.