If Gaels’ Head Coach Steve Snyder has been wondering if his football team is a top tier contender for the Ontario University Football Yates Cup Championship in November, the answer may very well come on Sunday evening at Richardson Stadium. The Gaels host the Carleton Ravens who are hoping to build on an OUA semi-final playoff loss to eventual Yates Cup winner Western Mustangs last fall.
When asked if he has seen a lot of progression through one week of training camp, Snyder said, “We’ve seen a lot of progression from last night. That’s been our goal: To be better after each and every practice and meeting. Things are getting layered on, and people are getting more comfortable in their roles.” That’s an important point, as all teams in the league have to get up to speed quickly as the OUA has shortened training camps to 10 days — four days shorter than in prior years.
“It’s been a great camp and now we’ve transitioned from the training camp portion to preparing for our opponent, which is tough in week 1,” Snyder said.
As for the opponent, the Ravens are a team that are returning 10 starters on both sides of the ball. The Ravens head into the season with high expectations. Like all teams, they have lost some key players to graduation, however, they return an impressive lineup that, on paper, look to be a top contender.
Returning on defence are OUA All-Stars Jack Cassar, Jonathan Edouard, and Tevin Bowen. The offense should be explosive with the return of fifth-year receiver Phil Iloki, who was selected in the 7th round (56th overall) by the Toronto Argonauts in this past spring’s CFL draft.
The big question for the Gaels is: Who will be the starting quarterback after the graduation of five-year starter Nate Hobbs? Snyder would not comment on who the starter will be while saying, “We have a great quarterback room. A lot of guys working really hard and doing great things together. For now, we’re just focusing on being a better football team.”
Whoever the starter is, he will be playing behind a veteran offensive line that is made up of third- and fourth -year starters. Most observers will not be surprised if James Keenen is named the starter for the season opener.
Despite the shortened training camp, Snyder and his staff have run each practice with a great deal of energy and high tempo. With 103 players still with the team, Snyder doesn’t expect the numbers to diminish after things get going Sunday.
“While we’ve paired things down to our dress roster, we are developing an entire roster. A lot of programs only focus on who’s playing, but we want to spend time developing the entire group. Players who may not play this year will be ready to compete on a consistently high level next year,” he said. Game time on Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019 is 6 p.m., which is also Junior Gaels Day. All Junior Gaels (and one parent) get in free with their membership card. Plus, all Junior Gaels receive a free hotdog.
Tim “The Coach” Cunningham has played every sport ever. His inside knowledge can be heard and seen on radio, television and in print across Canada. Follow him on twitter at @TheCoachTC.