2019 FOOTBALL CANADA CUP PREVIEW
By Ameeta Vohra
With the start of the 2019 Football Canada Cup only hours away, there is lots anticipation about what will unfold at Queen’s University’s Richardson Stadium.
To get better acquainted with the eight teams that are going to battle it out for the National Championship, here are previews of each team.
In 2018, Saskatchewan was no longer the bridesmaid of the tournament. After recent years of coming so close and suffering heartbreak, they finally won the elusive gold medal in Calgary, taking out Alberta in a dramatic championship game that was decided in the dying minutes of the game.
Jeff Stusek returns at the helm to guide Saskatchewan in their defence of the gold medal. This will be his second year as head coach and was previously special teams coordinator for two years. This past January, Stusek was in charge of the wide receivers and special teams for the under-18 national squad that participated at the International Bowl in Arlington, Texas.
One potentially dynamic offensive tandem to watch for is quarterback Noah Pelletier and running back Ryker Frank. Not only are both players returning from the gold medal winning team, but they Over the course of their careers, both players have gotten extremely comfortable and had success on different stages including last year’s Football Canada Cup gold medal victory, 2017 U-16 Western Challenge in Lethbridge, where the tandem helped Saskatchewan claim the silver medal in the tournament. For their efforts, both were selected as tournament all-stars and represented Canada at the 2018 International Bowl. Frank also joined Stusek at this year’s International Bowl.
Saskatchewan’s defence is led by returning linebacker Tyson Krushelniski, whose aggressive and physical play will be a challenge for opposing offences.
2018 RESULT: defeated Alberta 31-26 in gold medal game and won national championship
HEAD COACH: Jeff Stusek – second year in role, was Special Teams Coordinator previous two years
2019 GAME DAY 1 – will battle eighth seeded Nova Scotia on July 7, 2019 at 3:00 p.m. EST
NUMBER OF RETURNING PLAYERS: 9
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
|*Tyson Krushelniski||LB||Bishop James Mahoney|
|Zach Lepage||OL||Holy Cross|
|*Tanner Rieber||DB||Bishop James Mahoney|
After the dramatic heartbreak the team faced at last year’s Football Canada Cup on home turf, Alberta is determined and motivated to win gold.
One of the significant changes is that Darcy Park has moved up into the head coaching position after guiding Alberta’s under-16 team to back-to-back gold medals at the Western Challenge (2017 & 2018). Park comes with a wealth of experience as he led the under-16 national team at the 2018 International Bowl and has been part of the Edmonton Wildcats organization that competes in the Prairie Football Conference (PFC) of the Canadian Junior Football League (CJFL) since 1999. Previously, Park was Special Teams Coordinator, Running Backs as well as Defensive Line Coach during his tenure with the team. After taking over Assistant Head Coaching duties in 2008, he became Head Coach of the Wildcats in 2011.
As a player, Park played for the CFL’s Edmonton Eskimos and Saskatchewan Roughriders. Moreover, he suited up for the CIS’ Alberta Golden Bears. While he was with JUCO team, New Mexico Military Institute, Park was selected as an All-American Honorable Mention in 1993.
Offensively, Alberta has a 1-2 punch when it comes to depth at the quarterback position. Anton Amundrud returns back after a solid performance at last year’s Football Canada Cup while Eli Hetlinger was Park’s quarterback on the provincial under-16 team at the 2017 Western Challenge and also represented Canada at the 2018 International Bowl. Hetlinger is an athletic passer who excels at quickly releasing the ball and his accuracy has left opposing defences scrambling to find a way to stop his rhythm. The quarterback will be a challenge because of his unique ability to make off-balance passes.
The main targets will be the receiving core led by Sony Burmudez-Chavez and Kolby Hurford as they will use their speed to make big plays. Expected to garner a lot of attention from recruiters is offensive lineman Albert Reese.
Returning linebacker Kosta Zannis highlights Alberta’s defense and he is projected to put forth another remarkable performance at the Football Canada Cup, building from the momentum of what he accomplished last year in Calgary. After his breakout at the 2017 Under-16 Western Challenge, defensive back Charlie DeLand joins Park in the move to the under-18 squad. During his young career, he has earned the reputation of being a shut-down cornerback.
2018 RESULT: lost to Saskatchewan 31-26 in gold medal game and claimed silver in the tournament
HEAD COACH: Darcy Park – first year as head coach, led Alberta’s under-16 to back-to-back gold medal victories at Western Challenge (2017, 2018)
2019 GAME DAY 1 – will square off against seventh seeded New Brunswick on July 7, 2019 at 9:00 a.m. EST
NUMBER OF RETURNING PLAYERS: 3
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
|Eli Hetlinger||QB||Harry Ainlay|
|Sonny Bermudez-Chavez||REC||Harry Ainlay|
|*Kosta Zannis||LB||Crescent Heights|
|Charlie DeLand||DB||St. Francis|
Quebec has been the Football Canada Cup dynasty as up until last year’s tournament, the province won six of the last seven championships dating back to 2011 (Ontario won in 2014). However, the team did take home bronze from last year’s event.
Coming in with a fresh new look, David Lessard takes over the head coaching reins from Marco Iadeluca. Lessard moves up to the under-18 squad after leading the province’s under-16 team to gold at last year’s Eastern Challenge in Guelph, Ontario.
Another Muganda will be looking to put together a dynamic and explosive performance at the tournament. Following in his brother Kalenga’s footsteps, REC Ighani Muganda will be player opposing offences have to find a solution for to stop. He led RSEQ Juvenile Division 1’s Cure-Antione Labelle Wolves in receptions.
Returning from last year’s provincial team is Merton Theagene who was one of the top rushers this past fall with RSEQ Juvenile Division 1’s Notre-Dame Cactus.
Defensively, Mohamed Elshal will be counted on to make big but timely plays on the line of scrimmage. Returning linebacker Jamyson Goudreau is expected to provide veteran leadership.
2018 RESULT: defeated Ontario 33-6 to take bronze medal in the tournament
HEAD COACH: David Lessard – first year in role, led Quebec to gold medal at 2018 Under-16 Eastern Challenge in Guelph, Ontario
2019 GAME DAY 1 – will meet sixth seeded Manitoba on July 7, 2019 at 12:00 p.m. EST
NUMBER OF RETURNING PLAYERS: 2
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
|Iraghi Muganda||REC||Seminaire Saint-Francois|
|Xavier Gaillardetz||REC||Seminaire Saint-Joseph|
|*Merton Theagene||RB||L’Odyssee Dominique-Racine|
|Jean-Simon Verreault||OL||College Charles-Lemoyne|
|Mohamed Elshal||DL||Seminaire Saint-Francois|
Ontario comes into the tournament hoping to improve upon their 2018 performance that left them off the medal podium after losing to Quebec in the bronze medal game in Calgary.
In 2019, there is a new leader for the province as Glen Mills moved on and JP Circelli has assumed the positon as head coach. While this is his first year as head coach, Circelli was part of the coaching staff at last year’s event in Calgary. This has been a banner year for him as he recently became head coach of USPORTS team Windsor Lancers after years of being an offensive line coach with both the Western Mustangs and Concordia Stingers as well as high school team, Central Catholic Crusaders of the Thames Valley Regional Athletic Association (TVRAA).
Leading the offensive is quarterback Keagan Hall, who tends to use his size and athleticism to prolong plays so he can bide time to find his open targets. One of his main targets at the tournament is expected to be wide receiver Raeshawn Blake. Keagan O’Neill will be one player to watch for on the offensive line.
Returning lineman Mitchell Price anchors the battle at the line of scrimmage while Matt Henderson leads Ontario’s linebacker core. One player who the crowd will be rooting for is local defensive back Ethan Coulas.
2018 RESULT: lost to Quebec 33-6 to end up fourth in the tournament
HEAD COACH: JP Circelli – first year in role, was on provincial coaching staff at last year’s Football Canada Cup in Calgary, Alberta
2019 GAME DAY 1 – will host fifth seeded British Columbia on July 7, 2019 at 6:00 p.m. EST
NUMBER OF RETURNING PLAYERS: 5
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
|Raeshawn Blake||REC||Catholic Central|
|Keegan O’Neill||OL||Bell River|
BRITISH COLUMBIA (5):
Since coming back to tournament in 2017, British Columbia has made some waves and third time could be the lucky charm for the provincial team.
Cory Philpot is into his third year at the helm. For two consecutive years, he has coached Canada’s under-18 squads at the International Bowl in Arlington, Texas. During his time as head coach of British Columbia, the team placed sixth at 2018 Football Canada Cup and fifth at the 2017 event. Philpot enjoyed a successful CFL playing career with BC Lions where he set a record for single season rushing yards on route to helping the team win a Grey Cup in 1994. The next season, Philpot set a league record for the most touchdowns. The former running back was a recipient of the Eddie James Memorial Trophy twice (1994, 1995) and selected as a league All-Star in 1995. The offensive star also did a brief stint with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (1999-2000).
The team itself will be looking for leadership from the six returning players from the 2018 tournament. Leading the way on offence is wide receiver Nolan Ulm who has already caught the eyes of multiple recruiters and was one of the breakout stars of the 2018 Football Canada Cup as he was named Offensive Player of the Game against Manitoba in the fifth place game.
One returning lineman that is also garnering a lot of recruiting attention is Mathew Ounsted. With collegiate programs always looking for size and skill especially on the offensive line, he is just what many programs are looking so look for another big performance on the big stage from him.
2018 RESULT: defeated Manitoba 23-10 to wind up in fifth
HEAD COACH: Cory Philpot – third year in role, coached the national under-18 squads at both 2018 and 2019 International Bowls
2019 GAME DAY 1 – will play fifth seeded host Ontario on July 7, 2019 at 6:00 p.m. EST
NUMBER OF RETURNING PLAYERS: 6
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
|Noah Anderson||RB||Lord Tweedsmuir|
|Kaishaun Carter||DL||Saint Thomas Moore|
|Terrel Jones||WR||Lord Tweedsmuir|
|Ian Marin||LB||Notre Dame|
|Vincenzo Nardulli||LB||Notre Dame|
|Andy Ofosuhene||RB||W.J. Mouat|
|*Matthew Ounsted||OL||Mount Douglas|
|Tremel States-Jones||DB||Lord Tweedsmuir|
|Jaxon Stebbings||WR||Lord Tweedsmuir|
One of the provincial teams hoping for a better showing from 2018 is Manitoba. With 11 returning players, the team boasts a roster with experience and that will be key in their goal to compete against the top teams.
Ryan Karhut returns back as head coach for the second straight year. He is also an assistant coach with USPORTS team Manitoba Bisons and has previous experience with the York Lions as well as CJFL’s PFC team Winnipeg Rifles.
Returning running back Isheanesu Matanga highlights the offence. An explosive and dynamic rusher, Matanga was a standout at the 2018 Football Canada Cup and has is gifted with hands that are able to make crafty, but big plays. Kaiden Bannon leads the receiving core and is also a returning player but he has the experience of helping Manitoba win bronze at the 2017 Under-16 Western Challenge held in Lethbridge, Alberta. His strength is using his football sense to run routes with precision.
Defence is where Manitoba has consistently been strong and this year is no exception. Linebacker Isaac Dokken, defensive back Nathan Smallwood as well as linemen Jordan Friesen and Jonah Siciliano have the experience to provide veteran leadership on this team. The unit’s size and athleticism makes them an opposing offence’s nightmare.
2018 RESULT: lost to British Columbia 23-10 to end up in sixth
HEAD COACH: Ryan Karhut – second year in role
2019 GAME DAY 1 – will battle third seeded Quebec on July 7, 2019 at 12:00 p.m. EST
NUMBER OF RETURNING PLAYERS: 11
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
|*Isheanesu Matanga||RB||Vincent Massey (Winnipeg)|
|*Kaiden Bannon||REC||Vincent Massey (Winnipeg)|
|Justice Flett||WR||Oak Park|
|Samuel Olaniran||OL||Vincent Massey (Winnipeg)|
|Giordano Vaccaro||OL||St. Paul’s|
|Jayden Engel||LB||Vincent Massey (Brandon)|
NEW BRUNSWICK (7):
Breaking through in 2018 and pulling out their first ever Football Canada Cup victory against their Maritime rivals, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick is looking to build on the momentum.
This year marks the official changing of the guard as Jamie Price takes over as head coach after Chris Hopkins spent several years with the program. Price has USPORTS coaching experience with Mount Allison Mounties and Acadia Axemen.
New Brunswick has the most returning players of any other roster with 15.
Offensively, brothers Samuel (quarterback) and Caleb (receiver) Tremblay hope to create some offensive magic liked they did in Guelph, Ontario last year at the Under-16 Eastern Challenge. Protecting them from the defense is returning lineman Bradly Peters.
Linebacker Xavier Malone and lineman Nathan Clark anchor the defence and bring stability through their veteran leadership.
2018 RESULT: defeated Nova Scotia 14-9 to end tournament in seventh place
HEAD COACH: Jamie Price – first year in role
2019 GAME DAY 1 – will meet second seeded Alberta on July 7, 2019 at 9:00 a.m. EST
NUMBER OF RETURNING PLAYERS: 15
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
|Nathan Clark||DL||Leo Hayes|
|*Tom Brow||OL||Saint John|
NOVA SCOTIA (8):
If one team is seeking redemption in this tournament, it’s Nova Scotia. Losing three extremely tight games at the 2018 Football Canada Cup in Calgary, Alberta, Nova Scotia left the tournament disappointed as none of the bounces went their way.
Dave Van Den Heuvel is the head coach this year and is no stranger to the provincial program. This will be the fifth time he will be instructing Team Nova Scotia but his first time in the head coaching position. For the last two years (2017, 2018), Van Den Heuvel was the Offensive Coordinator for the provincial team at the Football Canada Cup. In both 2015 and 2016, he was with the provincial team as an Offensive Line Coach. Recently, Van Den Heuvel was named Offensive Coordinator for AUS team, StFX X-Men. Previously he spent the last four seasons with the X-Men as Offensive Line Coach and Recruiting Coordinator. Previous to the X-Men, he was the Head Coach of the NSSAFFL’s Dr. John Hugh Gillis Royals. In 2018, he was Offensive Line Coach for Canada’s under-18 team at the 2018 International Bowl in Arlington, Texas.
On offence, last year’s Player of the Game against New Brunswick, Allan Young leads the unit. This past fall, he led powerhouse Citadel Phoenix win another Nova Scotia Student Athletic Federation Football League (NSSAFFL) Division 1 Championship. One of his main targets will be receiver John Lilley who has championship experience helping Nova Scotia win the under-16 Eastern Challenge in 2017.
Lilley is not the only one who was part of the championship team as many others moved up last year to the under-18 team including linebacker Connor Burns and defensive lineman Ivan Gault.
Defensively, Keandre Jollimore is the one to watch for as he leads the secondary.
Special teams is something Nova Scotia has been consistently good at in Football Canada Cups and will look to Owen MacRae to add points through field goals and PATs.
2018 RESULT: lost to New Brunswick 14-9 to end tournament in eighth place
HEAD COACH: Dave Van Den Heuvel – first year in role and has previously coached for provincial team in recent years
2019 GAME DAY 1 – will meet top seeded Saskatchewan on July 7, 2019 at 3:00 p.m. EST
NUMBER OF RETURNING PLAYERS: 7
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
|*Keandre Jollimore||DB||Auburn Drive|
|Owen MacRae||K||Northeast Kings|
|*Connor Burns||LB||Western Reserve Academy|
|*Ivan Gault||DL||Cobequid Educational Centre|
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