The 2016 B.C. high school football regular season kicks off next weekend for two of the Central Okanagan’s three AAA varsity teams.
The KSS Owls will host Lord Tweedsmuir in a 4 p.m. start on Friday, Sept. 23 at the Apple Bowl, while the Mt. Boucherie Bears will follow at 6:30 p.m. against Mission Secondary.
The Rutland Voodoos will launch their 2016 regular season Saturday, Oct. 8 at Earl Marriot.
Here’s a look at what to expect from the three Kelowna area teams this season.
• KSS Owls
Under coach Ben Macauley in 2015, the Owls enjoyed their best season in AAA football, reaching their first ever provincial semifinals before losing to Mt. Douglas.
This season, KSS heads into battle with a new coach at the controls, Chris Cartwright. A native of Richmond, Cartwright played high school football at Hugh Boyd and two years at Acadia University.
“KSS has a great tradition of developing great student athletes. I hope I can help continue that tradition,” said Cartwright. “We have great coaches who are passionate about the program and who want to see us compete at the highest level. The support from the school, parents, and football community have been fantastic.
“Coach Godwin (Mt. Boucherie), Coach McCall (Rutland) and I are communicating regularly with each other to think of ways of how we can help the game grow in the community.”
With a relatively young roster this season, the Owls will look to returning linemen Newton Benson and Tyler Woloshyn for experience and leadership.
Cartwright will also look to a key corps of returning Grade 11s, including Marcus Athans, Kyle Zakala and Blaise Beauchemin.
“We are in the process of revamping and rebuilding our program,” Cartwright said. “We have a young team that is really trying to create an identity.”
• Mt. Boucherie Bears
Coached by Mike Godwin since the program’s inception in 2004, the Bears are looking to improve on last year’s 2-4 record in the Eastern Conference.
“We should be a contender this year if we can stay relatively healthy and gel as a team,” said Godwin. “In terms of overall talent I think we are as good as any in the province.”
Godwin said the key for the Bears will be depth, as many of the team’s back-ups could easily crack the starting lineup.
Among the strengths will be the offensive line featuring the likes of returnees Broden Ellerton, Wyatt Fagan, Max Krell and Mackenzie Hixson all returning from last year. A strong corps of receivers includes Chris Smith, Ethan Beselt, Steve Johnson, Nate Humes, and Salem Clark all return from last season, complemented by Grade 11 players Jonah Tassone, Mark Schuppener, and Rodney Nucamendi-Snider.
As for the defense, Godwin said it could be Boucherie’s most stalwart in years.
Nick Kopp is among the top defensive players in the province, while the defensive secondary is solid Chris Smith, Ethan Beselt, and Brenden Siemers rotating in at corner, while Taylor Knoll, Hunter Desson, and Burkely Theriault will rotate at the two safety spots.
“The key component of our team this year is the work these guys put in during the off-season,” Godwin said. “Most of these guys put in their time in the weight room and the coaches have really noticed a difference in their overall strength, speed, and agility.”
• Rutland Voodoos
Longtime Voodoos head coach Peter McCall will be re-joined this season on the coaching staff by former Rutland coach Shane Sommerfeld.
The Voodoos have a strong returning group of Grade 11s, including running back/linebacker Brayden Anderson, running back/defensive back Matt Klak and Zach Hemmett, a QB and defensive back.
Grade 12 starters Kyle Solloway (receiver/DB) , Jacob Birchfield (O and D lines) and Braedon Spring (receiver/DB) will provide experience and stability.
Grade 10 lineman Jared Pimiskirn has also shown promise.
“Our goal is to compete for the Pacific AAA Conference title and get into the Subway Bowl,” said McCall.
“Our coaching staff, including Shane Sommerfeld back coordinating the defense, has been working hard to get everyone up to speed. Should be an exciting ending to a busy first week back at school.”