Lions ready to roar
Tuesday, Aug 26, 2014 11:00 am
The calendar may still say summer, but that subtle bite in the air means the leaves will soon be changing colour and falling, bringing with them another season of Lions football.
Bleating whistles and crashing pads could be heard from the field behind St. Paul Regional High School on Aug. 20 as the 2014 installment of the St. Paul Lions football club took to the gridiron.
Coming off back-to-back league championships, head coach John Lumby has had a full year to reflect on his team’s 2013 run, and a few memories still linger from that successful campaign.
“We had won the previous year, and we had won partly because of a very talented running back in Jason Jubinville,” he said. “I think the belief was out there among our competitors that we were not going to do well.”
“It was motivation for us to prove that it wasn’t just Jason - although obviously he was a very talented back for us and he broke records - but it took a whole team that previous year, and there were a lot of other guys who did a lot of things right.”
However, all slates have been wiped clean as a new season of football approaches, and Lumby’s team seems up for the challenge.
As they took to the field for their first padded practice of the season, some new faces were donning whistles and shorts. “We’ve got some new additions to the coaching staff,” Lumby said. “We are delighted to welcome Travis Rolheiser, who played football with (St. Francis Xavier High School) in Edmonton, but is also an accomplished goalie who played in the WHL and won Nationals with the U of A,” Lumby said. “Chris Schuh is also joining us. I coached him; he was with us for three years - in 2000, 2001 and 2002. He was an offensive lineman for us.”
There were also a lot of new faces at practice that were hidden behind the bars of their facemasks, as the victorious Lions graduated 16 of their 32 players from last season – a full half of their football team.
The team’s pivot from last season, quarterback Brendan McKay, was one of the Lions who has since moved on. “Those are big shoes to fill,” Lumby said. “He was really excellent for us.”
As with the cycle of any team, however, there are young and eager players ready to grab the reigns and make their own marks on the franchise. One such player is new quarterback Patrick Dion. “He’s young and fairly new at it, but he’s a talented football player and he’s mentally very tough, so we’re excited about him at that position,” Lumby said.
“We have talented players, really, at every position,” he added.
As the senior players move on with their lives, so too do the bantam Bengals get the opportunity to move up to the higher ranks, and they seem to be up for the challenge, said Lumby. “It can be intimidating joining a high school team, but I think that the older players, the veterans, have been very welcoming towards the new players, and I think they became comfortable very quickly.”
As things move forward, the coaches will have ample opportunity to evaluate their new team and decide who will fit best into which role. “We have a couple of exhibition games, and we’re going to see who’s going to show us what they can do,” Lumby said. “Some of the players are probably really going to step up, and we’ll notice them and give them a prominent position.”
As far as the team’s training camp goes, things seem to be off to a good start. “We’ve had just a few nights here, but the attitude is great,” Lumby said. “We’ve never had as many coaches as we have now. We’ve got lots of help, and I really love the attitude of the coaches . . . It’s been really positive, and I think that the players are feeding off that energy, so it makes my job easier.”
For a team that has experienced so much recent success, Lumby still asserts that, while it is one of their goals, winning isn’t always everything. “We want to win, and we’re going to do everything we can to win,” he said. “But at the same time, if we can be proud of ourselves that we gave it everything we have, that we are improving as people on and off the field and embodying respect and integrity and honesty and all these other traits that we think football fosters, then we’ll be satisfied.”