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Ryan McCracken photos
Ryan McCracken photos
(Clockwise, from top) St. Paul Lions quarterback Patrick Dion hands the ball off to runningback Liam Krys during a game against the Cold Lake Royals at the Lions Jamboree on Saturday afternoon. Layne Whelen connects with a Cold Lake Royals player. Centre Reuben Johnson snaps the ball to quarterback Patrick Dion. The St. Paul Lions huddle before an offensive play at Saturday's jamboree.
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Lions test out new roster at jamboree

Jun 03, 2014 12:30 pm | By Ryan McCracken | St. Paul Journal

The St. Paul Lions hosted its annual Spring Jamboree at St. Paul Regional on Saturday afternoon, welcoming teams from Cold Lake, Bonnyville and St. Francis Xavier in Edmonton to take part in the fast-paced afternoon of football.

Lions Head Coach John Lumby said a main purpose of the jamboree is to gauge the talent and abilities of players as the team progresses toward a new season, and that he saw a lot of learning take place on the gridiron in a 3 – 1 win over Cold Lake, a 4 – 2 loss to Bonnyville, and a 2 – 1 loss to St. Francis Xavier.

“The young guys made mistakes, but so did the veterans. We’re learning. We also had a lot of guys step up and make some great plays,” said Lumby. “Defensively, in spite of having lots of backups in there, we held our own I’d say, in all our games. I was pleased with that. Offensively we had some positive moments but on the last drive we really started to do some things like look like a Lions team.”

Lumby added some of the Lions playing in this year’s jamboree are completely new to the game of football, but he was impressed by their dedication and desire to improve.

“The brand new players, they looked a little lost at first but they didn’t look so lost at the end, they looked kind of found,” he said. “I think they’re having fun, I hope so. I think that they learned a ton today. It’s probably information overload for them a bit because it’s a complex game and it takes a while to learn even each position. Some of them, since they first showed up here, they’ve come ahead by leaps and bounds.”

With former Lions quarterback Brenden McKay graduating this year, the Lions will look to Patrick Dion to take his place. Lumby added he was pleased by what he saw out of the Grade 10 quarterback, and said one of his best traits on the field and in the locker room is his work ethic.

“Patrick is a very coachable guy. He didn’t keep making mistakes. It’s great when you can tell a player what to do and they do it,” he said. “He stepped up, threw and took a hit. Sometimes quarterbacks have to do that . . . I saw lots of good things from Patrick.”

Lions right tackle Corey Wozniak said that while the day started off slowly for St. Paul, things picked up quickly once everyone started to feel comfortable in their new roles.

“Against Cold Lake it took us a couple of plays to get started. We have a young O-line but once everyone started to gel we did pretty well . . . I saw a lot of heart and commitment and a lot of hard work out of the younger guys,” said Wozniak, adding his role will require a great deal of leadership as he moves into Grade 12 next season. “We’ve got to lead by example because we’re going to have two or three rookies filling in spots where we lost Grade 12s last year.”

Spencer Graling, a graduating Bengal who got his first taste of high school football at Saturday’s jamboree, said he immediately noticed the increased intensity as a member of the Lions.

“You can tell they’re expecting a lot more from us. It’s gone from just being for fun to being a lot more competitive,” said Graling, adding the chemistry is already looking strong amongst the new Lions roster. “Everybody kind of knew each other either form playing before or just from school. I think our chemistry is really good, there are a few things we need to work on but other than that I think it’s really good.”

Lumby added while the team has plenty of room to improve, he feels it will do just that in pursuit of a third straight Wheatland Football Championship this fall.

“I feel great about this team, largely because of the attitude. There’s a really good, positive attitude and everybody is encouraging each other. Everybody seems to want to learn, they seem to want to be here, and there’s definitely some talent on this team too. We are kind of green, but we’re going to work through that.”

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