By CLAUDE SCILLEY
This is not, Mark Magee, cautions, last year’s football team.
“It’s a dynamic all its own,” the coach of the varsity Kingston Grenadiers continued.
“I’ve tried to explain to the guys who were on last year’s team that we have to make our own identity and do our own thing.
“It’s not last year’s group, but it’s a good group.”
The biggest difference fans will see Saturday afternoon when the Grenadiers open their Ontario Varsity Football League schedule will be the size of the linemen.
“The style of play will be the same,” Magee said. “It will be wide open. We’ve got two good quarterbacks who are going to be able to throw the ball, and we’ve got a couple of really good backs.
“On the offensive line we’re not as big, so we’re not going to be able to push people around. We’re going to have to be strong on our assignment-based stuff.”
Still, Magee, who replaces Bob Mullen as head coach of the varsity squad, is optimistic as his team prepares to face the West Durham—formerly Pickering—Dolphins in Saturday’s season opener.
“We’re very athletic at receiver,” where Jeremy Pendergast, a top recruit of the Queen’s Golden Gaels, and Nik Daniele, a member of Team Ontario at the International Bowl tournament in Texas in February, lead the pack.
In Dylan Fisher and Tanner DeJong, Magee believes he has two of the best quarterbacks in the league.
“It’s been quite a journey for me with Dylan,” Magee said. “He tried out for Grenadiers as a JV and he was, like, four-foot-nothing and could throw the ball 15 yards, but he was the smartest quarterback in the group. He reads defences well and plays a very cerebral game. He’s a pretty smart kid.
‘Tanner’s coming that way as well. There’s no question he’s getting better and better, and Tanner’s got the gun. That kid can sling it. He can really throw the football.”
The Grenadiers boast a pair of running backs who can punish opponents: Ernestown’s Konner Burtenshaw—“who’s as tough as they come,” Magee said—and Calvin DeFayette of Brockville.
“The defence has tremendous athletes in the secondary and a bunch of scrappy guys on the line. I’m totally optimistic.”
Saturday’s game at Loyalist Collegiate will commence at 4 p.m., following a junior varsity match that starts at 1 o’clock.
The Grenadiers, 5-3 a year ago, had their way last year with the Dolphins, pinning a 37-1 defeat on a team that would finish the campaign 3-5.
“You don’t really know (what to expect),” Magee said. “They’re going to be very athletic, and when you’re up against that you’ve got to make sure you’re really strong with your assignments and not make mistakes, or you’ll get into trouble.”