Spears ready for action
After a two-year pandemic pause, the Niagara Spears varsity football team returns to action this Saturday.
Niagara will host the North Halton Crimson Tide at 8 p.m. at Kiwanis Field in the Ontario Summer Football League season opener for both squads.
“As always, the expectations are high but as everyone knows we play in a very tough league,” Spears head coach Brian Duguay said. “It doesn’t matter what league we are in it has always been the same competitors; Essex, Cambridge, London and Hamilton.”
There is little margin for error.
“One loss can ruin it. Every win or tie helps out a lot,” he said.
Duguay has been impressed with the dedication and work ethic of the 2022 version of the Spears.
“They are coming out, they want to work and they want to learn and develop. We have been getting 40 kids out to every practice.”
Niagara’s offence will be led by Notre Dame quarterback Marshall McCray, the 2021 Jan Cook Award winner as the top high school player in Niagara. Still fighting it out for playing time in the backup QB role are Saint Francis’ Jackson Stewart, Grimsby’s Xavier Zatylny and Saint Paul’s Matthew Murray.
“We are very strong at the quarterback position,” offensive coordinator Dan Pepe said.
The featured running back will be Notre Dame’s Jacob Tessier.
“He is a threat in the run and pass game and he is very dynamic player,” Pepe said. “And he is very physical.”
Other members of the backfield are Churchill’s De’Ondre Forde and Justin Savoie, and Eden’s Elijah Prosper.
The wide receiving core is led by Josh Morley (Churchill), Alex Walters (A.N. Myer) and Lucas Johnson (Saint Francis).
Braydon Schryer from Saint Mary’s University will anchor the offensive line.
“We would love to be a balanced run and pass team,” Pepe said. “That is always the goal. We also want to control the game and keep everyone safe.”
Under defensive coordinator Ron Traub, the Spears’ defence will look much like it always appears.
“It hasn’t changed in many years. We play an aggressive defence and it seems to work for the guys out there,” Traub said.
He likes his personnel.
“We have a good mix of experienced players coming back and brand new players. Every player that we have here could start on any team in our league.”
Key players in the secondary will be Moses Lougheed (Churchill) and Javier Lewis (Saint Paul).
Among the top players at linebacker are Saint Paul’s Tyler Rankin, the defensive MVP in the Niagara Catholic Athletic Association league, and camp surprise Keynan Aird (Westlane).
“He is a natural leader out there and he is big and fast,” Traub said.
Stalwarts on the defensive line will be Grade 11 player Christian Vandenberg (Blessed Trinity), veteran leader Braydon Snider (Notre Dame) and Torrey Sowden (GFESS).
Making up the Spears roster is : Alex Walters and Cross Burley from A.N. Myer; Barry Rooney from Brock University; Bayan Afnan, Christian Vandenberg, Ryan Broome and Wyatt Bezuyen from Blessed Trinity; Braydon Schryer from Saint Mary’s University; Braydon Snider, Brian Mauvais, Dominic Andrey-Weeks, Garrett Deschambeault, Jacob Tessier, Marshall McCray, Jamar Baxter and Noah Chase from Notre Dame; Moses Lougheed, De’Ondre Forde, Josh Morley, Justin Savoie and Ryan Midany from Sir Winston Churchill; Colten Joyce from St. Catharines Collegiate; Danny Lewis and Ryan Segato from Governor Simcoe; Daniel Berlingieri from Cardinal Newman; Darius Best, Tyrone Klaassen and William Horrace from Denis Morris; Davion Gordon, Elijah Pappin, James Zarafonitis, Javier Lewis, Matthew Murray and Tyler Rankin from Saint Paul; Devon Dulmage and Garrett Hum from Lakeshore Catholic; DJ Shannon and Zachary Medford from Stamford; Elijah Prosper from Eden; Ethan Krick from E.L. Crossley; Jack Wilson from the Royal Imperial Collegiate of Canada; Jackson Stewart and Lucas Johnsen from Saint Francis; Keynan Aird from Westlane; Kylen Azem Simmons, Tyler Soppet and Xavier Zatylny from Grimsby; Matthew Elia from Saint Michael; Thomas Vaillancourt from Ridley College; Torrey Sowden from GFESS; and, Ty Dawn from Centennial.