The Mission Secondary School Roadrunners realize there’s more than just numbers affixed to their jerseys.
The reigning provincial AA football champs are gearing up for the regular season, and know they’re the highlight team in most everyone’s schedule.
“It’s an expectation,” said head coach Kevin Watrin. “We knew we would have targets on our backs.”
And while the team is getting stronger, faster and more competent with each practice and exhibition game, Watrin is well aware that the 2012-13 team isn’t last year’s, not is it even last year’s junior varsity squad, which also made its way to the finals, but lost to John Barsby.
The coach says he’s a “process” type of person, and guides his players accordingly — everything builds up. Staying strong in the gym, plus skillfull drills, repetitions and plays makes for good practices. Good practices leads to confidence and to good games.
All his players are working hard to improve, said Watrin, repeating his mantra: “You don’t know if you’ve done enough until you find out you haven’t.”
One of the team’s strongest assets, quarterback Kevin Wiens who was on last year’s championship team, is on the mend right now after injuring his Achilles tendon in practice a couple weeks back. He is expected to return in time for regular season play, said Watrin.
And how does a coach feel when he first thought he was potentially losing one of his best players?
“It was a bit like getting slugged in the gut. A lot of expectations were riding on how [Wiens] performs. He’s that good of an athlete,” he stated.
And while the team and coaching staff want Wiens back in the mix as soon as possible, they will “be careful in reintroducing him.
“That’s the difficult thing as a coach. He’ll want to play sooner than he’s ready.”
Filling in is Evan Horton, who usually plays running back, but has a strong arm. His natural athleticism is helping him, but his technique is still being refined by the coaching staff, Watrin added.
Other likely standouts for the season are going to be Hyatt Smith, playing outside linebacker and slotback, and Parker Johnson, a tail/cornerback.
“Smith covers a lot of ground on defense. He’s very fast and definitely a university-calibre player.”
Johnson can also play in the slotback and wide receiver spot, too, adding choices for the coaches.
Watrin remains confident the Roadrunners can win its league, but he’s predicting the games will be much closer in score.
“The conference is tighter than it was last year,” he said.
This Saturday, MSS plays an exhibition game against the AAA WJ Mouat Hawks at home, starting at 11 a.m. On Sept. 21, the last exhibition match of the season happens in Coquitlam against Centennial.
The regular season home opener is Oct. 6 against Pitt Meadows. Kickoff is at 1:30 p.m.