The South Delta Sun Devils have returned to the high school football field for the first time in 20 months with many new faces and a familiar one leading the way.
Following a 2020 campaign completely wiped out by COVID-19, the Sun Devils have plenty of catching up to do with two-a-day training camp sessions underway, leading up to Friday morning’s controlled scrimmage against the Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers in Cloverdale.
The last time there was a B.C. High School Football season, South Delta was ranked No. 1 in the province before a quarter-final playoff loss to the Notre Dame Jugglers. It was part of what was a golden era for the program that included a provincial title in 2014 and being a fixture in the provincial rankings. Now it’s time for head coach Ray Moon to hit the re-set button as he is reminded of the adversity public school teams in a small community can come up against.
Moon will begin his 16th season at the helm with a roster of about 19 players. Three potential starters have moved out of the area and a couple more have shifted their focus away from football. He is hoping some additions will trickle in once school starts next week. The good news is the junior varsity team has attracted 39 players and there are some that will be added depth to the senior roster on a weekly basis.
The thin depth chart is not ideal for what will be an extremely competitive Western Division with the likes of Vancouver College, Mt. Doug, Notre Dame, St. Thomas More and New West on the schedule.
“We have some athletes but we are also very thin,” said Moon. “(With the long layoff) it’s a large learning curve. We got a number of guys come out that have never played football before. We at least got some junior varsity guys we can bring up and that we feel won’t hurt us and they won’t get hurt playing at the next level.”
The Sun Devils will feature some excellent athletes with football experience including Grade 11 quarterback Kenny Scott and running back Jesse Mitran that both thrived at the JV level.
“We have a great little quarterback in Kenny and we have been very lucky at that position over the years,” Moon continued. “We see what (our players’) strengths are and we try to utilize them (with our playbook). I would say we are going to be 45 per cent or maybe even 50 a run team this year.”
The program has also seen some significant changes to its coaching staff with the departure of four longtime assistants. Jerry Mullis has taken over from Mark McDonald as offensive coordinator after serving as quarterbacks coach since his arrival from Seaquam. Former UBC standout Mike Emery and SDSS grads Spencer Smid (offensive line) and Danny Stanger (defensive backs) are among the new additions.
The Sun Devils are scheduled to open their pre-season schedule on Sept. 11 with South Kamloops slated to visit Tsawwassen. However, that game still isn’t a certainty with the high COVID numbers in Interior Health. A trip to Kelowna this past weekend for a controlled scrimmage was cancelled.
“Right now it’s a yes but I am in constant discussion with their coach,” said Moon. “It looks like their training camp is going to get off to a late start and we don’t want to take a chance with that area having (case) problems.”
The SDSS oval field is currently under repair after being vandalized by a chemical substance that has burned away some areas of the natural grass surface. The season will likely begin across the street at Dennison Park for the potential South Kamloops game and the Terry Fox Ravens’ visit a week later.