Lions set their sights on provincials
The St. Paul Lions are poised to take to the gridiron for the 2012 season with the overall goal of reaching the provincial championships, a feat that has eluded the team since 2007.
“That’s our big goal for this year, we want to make provincials,” said Lions head coach Todd Tanasichuk. “We’re always competitive. We’re always one of the top four teams, and that’s where we expect to be again this year.”
While the Lions will be without star receiver Mark Proskiw for the 2012 season, there are still 21 players returning from last year’s squad, as well as 11 new players that Tanasichuk said will be good additions.
“Mark was the best receiver, statistically, we’ve ever had on this team,” Tanasichuk said of the St. Paul High School graduate, who now plays for the Edmonton Wildcats. “You can’t replace him, but we’ve got more depth in the receiver position this year than we had last year.”
St. Paul’s first chance to put their new roster to the test comes on Aug. 31 with a game against the Lloydminster Comprehensive High School Barons, a team that Tanasichuk describes as the league’s team to beat.
“We want to be able to execute a bit on offense and play good solid defence. Lloyd. Comp. is the biggest school in our league. Traditionally, they are the powerhouse in our league.
“We were able to beat them twice last year, which is the first time we’ve ever done that, but they were rebuilding, and we know they’re going to be much better this year. It’s a real strong test for us right away.”
The feeling amongst players is optimistic. Offensive slot back and defensive linebacker Dominic Dion, a player that Tanasichuk describes as “an excellent threat,” says he feels this particular roster has a good shot at going all the way.
“I think as a team, we’re championship competitors . . . We’ve got a lot of speed on offense this year, so that’s going to be a plus,” said Dion, a two-way player entering his third season as a Lion. “We feel if we have a good season, we can for sure make the championship.”
In order to achieve these goals, Tanasichuk said he feels they must commit to their discipline on and off the field, their camaraderie as a team and their dedication to the sport.
“We’re not always the most talented team, we’re not always the team that has the most depth, because we are generally from a small population,” Tanasichuk said, alluding to competitors like Bonnyville, Cold Lake and Lloydminster that have larger populations than St. Paul.
“They’ve got more people to draw from, their rosters generally tend to be bigger than ours, but it’s our work ethic that makes us competitive.”
Tanasichuk said that the team will need to step up their discipline in order to reduce the chance of injuries this season, a problem which has plagued the team in the past.
“They’ve got to be disciplined on the field. They’ve got to be disciplined with their bodies away from football, they’ve got to maintain being healthy,” Tanasichuk said.
Tanasichuk says he has been stressing the fact that in order to maintain a solid level of team-wide discipline, the Lions will need to rely on each other in their classrooms, in the gym and especially on the field.
“We talked about it last night, about being a family,” Tanasichuk said prior to last Tuesday’s practice. “Sometimes, you love most of the members of your family and sometimes you can’t stand one or two of them, but blood is thicker than water, and when you’re out on the field, you come together.”
While the Lions face what is arguably their toughest challenge of the season in their opener against Lloydminster, if there is one game that every member of the team has circled on their calendars, it will be the Sept. 15 game versus the Cold Lake Royals.
“They’re our big rival,” Tanasichuk said. “It usually gets a little chippy out there and emotions run high. So our fans, hopefully they’re not going to let the bunch of people from Cold Lake come out here and out-cheer them.”
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