In a tough, competitive four team league, Notre Dame Cougars Football head coach Gino Castellan believes this is the year for his team to take the title.
“If any year, this is going to be the year we may be able to compete,” said Castellan.
“We hope to get better every week and peak at the right time. The kids want to win a championship and we’ll see how it goes.”
Castellan is excited at the prospect of his nucleus of returning players.
“I think we’re going to be better than last year,” he said. “We’re a veteran team. A lot of our skill position are veterans and that is going to be good for us.”
Last season the Cougars fell in the league final to the Hunting Hills Lightning 29-7.
Among the veterans returning is Devon Desormeau at quarterback who played all season as a Grade 11. Also in the backfield are running backs Justin Fedun and Johannes Smith, who are also returning from last season to suit up for the Cougars.
In the semifinals last year, Smith and Fedun combined to run for 312 yards on 33 carries. The Cougars beat the Lindsay Thurber Raiders 27-17 in that game.
“I have a great quarterback and great receivers,” said Castellan, pointing to Payton LaGrange, Beko Wande and Brandon Heidinger.
“We’re going to be really skilled there and I want to throw the ball.”
Wande and LaGrange play both offence and defence and earned their way on to Team Alberta’s U18 team as defensive backs. The team competed at the Football Canada Cup in July in Winnipeg, losing in the bronze medal game.
Casetllan said the two defensive backs will lead the defence, relying on their skill and experience.
“We’re going to call on them a lot because they’re good players,” said Castellan.
Another name to look out for on defence is Jacob Plamondon, who Castellan believes will be a superstar in the league this year.
Outside of the returning veterans, Castellan was excited about youngster Aidan Vida.
“He’s a Grade 10 and he’s going to be a great player in this league,” said Castellan. “We have a good group of guys coming in and they’re going to play lots.”
In the four-team league, each team plays each other twice and they will play each other in the playoffs.
“As long as we improve every week, we’re going to have a chance,” said Castellan.
The Cougars kick off their 2016 football season on Sept. 2 against the Lindsay Thurber Raiders at M.E. Global Field in Lacombe. The game starts at 4:30 p.m.