Big year for PK football
Paul Kane Blues are Miles contenders in new-look metro Edmonton league
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Saturday, Aug 24, 2013 06:00 am
The Paul Kane Blues are expecting the unexpected in the third season of high school football but first in the revamped metro Edmonton league.
The Blues, a Carr conference team the past two years in the metro league, will line up against the W.P. Wagner Warriors, last year’s Gilfillan conference finalists in the Edmonton public league, in their Miles conference lid-lifter Sept. 5. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. at Johnny Bright Park.
“We have to get ready to meet the challenge,” said Rob Strecker, head coach of last year’s seventh-place 3-5 Blues. “With us playing in Miles, sure we’re familiar with a few of the teams but some of these teams we have no idea what to expect.”
The Blues will also play the rebuilding St. Albert High Skyhawks – last year’s Carr finalists and Tier III (450 to 749 students) provincial silver medallists in the only Battle of St. Albert this year on Sept. 12 at 5 p.m. at Riel Recreation Park – plus two more Gilfillan teams in the Strathcona Lords and the 2012 champion McNally Tigers, as well as the Ardrossan Bisons and O’Leary Spartans from the Carr and the 2012 Miles champion Leduc Tigers.
“They’re all sort of in the same boat as we are with their student size but I’m sure the football is going to be high quality,” Strecker said.
The Blues are contenders for the Miles title with a roster loaded with skilled players from the 2011 premier junior championship team in Paul Kane’s inaugural season of football.
“We’re going to put out a very competitive team on the field but you don’t know who you’re going to come up against so there is no way I’m going to say we’re going to roll the Miles. You say that and you’re going to get bit so we’re going in level headed and face every week as a new challenge,” Strecker said.
A long list of Grade 12 kingpins includes MVP-calibre quarterback Cory Knott, slotback Tyler Turner and linebacker Graeme Loerke from the U18 provincial team, versatile running back/linebacker Greg Fleming and all-purpose player Frankie White.
The Grade 12 core of Blues, especially on the offensive side of the ball, is arguably the most talented of the three St. Albert teams in the metro league.
“We know what we have and we’re excited to unleash them but at the same time we don’t know what we’re going to come up against. There could be teams out there that are identical like us,” Strecker said. “Sure the Miles is div two but there are still good football teams there. It’s not like these guys are stiffs. They’ve got players too.”
The majority of the starters will be going both ways as the Blues set their sights on winning the Miles in pursuit of Tier II (750 to 1,249 students) provincial honours.
“We’ve got a lot of seniors now. Our guys have grown over the years and bonded and this year is something we’ve definitely looked forward to,” said Turner, the top pass catcher in the Carr last year. “There is a lot of excitement but there is going to be a lot of pressure involved too but I think we can handle it. We’re going to leave it all on the field every game because for lots of guys it’s their last year for football.”
Roughly half of the senior roster is junior grads from last year's 4-4 semifinalists in the premier conference playoffs.
“The juniors we’re bringing up in Shaydon Philips, Kieran Porter, Theo Block and others, they’re good football players and they’re sort of getting plugged into holes to replace some of the seniors we lost from last year,” Strecker said.
The Blues will use Friday’s exhibition in Cochrane against the Cobras, the reigning Tier III provincial champions, as a tune-up for the Miles campaign.
“We’re definitely pumped up and fired up,” Turner said. “We don’t know really what to expect with all these teams in the Miles but we’re definitely ready for every challenge we face.”
Last year the Blues won their Carr season opener 45-0 against O’Leary for the team’s first victory in school history after going 0-6 in the year before.
“We want to start off on a good foot like we did last year, absolutely,” Strecker said. “But we must play with urgency. At times last year we sort of went into a little bit of a lull and it bit us a couple of occasions.”
Penalties and strong line play are areas of concern for Strecker.
“You’ve got to be able to establish the run and that opens up the pass and vice versa so we’ve got to be able to control the line of scrimmage,” said the Paul Kane alumnus. “We also need to play smart and penalty free, or at least limit the penalties. We definitely have to do that.”
The team’s greatest strength is a prolific passing attack, led by the lethal combination of Knott to Turner.
Last year Knott, the Grant Yuzyk Award winner as the most outstanding junior in the 2011 metro league, threw a league-high 1,472 yards and shared the touchdown lead with 15, while going 74-for-144 passing. He was also the team’s leading rusher with 539 yards on 47 carries.
Turner reeled in 32 catches, nine more than the second-place finisher, for a whopping 680 yards and nine touchdowns. The next-best yardage total was 466.
“That was a pretty incredible experience and a great year for me to have. I was pretty lucky to have guys on the team that would get me open and Cory would make the throw and I would make the catch,” said the six-foot-one pass-catching machine. “It’s something Cory and I have worked on a lot and it just clicks. He knows when to throw it and when not to throw it and I know where I need to be and all that good stuff.”
Turner, 17, also put on a show at the U18 tryouts to make Team Alberta for the Football Canada Cup at Moncton, New Brunswick. Alberta lost the national final to Quebec 43-23 for the third year in a row
“That was a great experience. I was very happy how we did,” Turner said. “I had tons of fun. I enjoyed every second of it. It was something that will help me in the future I’m pretty sure.”