GOTW NS: CFC50 No. 27 Citadel look to get 1st round bye with win over UR Sir John A. Macdonald

The GOTW, CFC50 No. 27 Citadel Phoenix playing UR Sir John A. Macdonald Flames, will be one of the top, most competitive matches in the Maritimes all season. The Nova Scotia High School Football Association made the decision halfway through the season to re-align the whole league and the schedule changed to bring more balance and parity to the conference.

That being said, since the beginning of October, teams have had to deal with many changes which would, no doubt, cause your overall strategy to adjust as well. How will this one pan out? We’re going to find out on Monday night at 7:00pm AST.

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This season has been unique, to say the least. Our league attempted a new format and it was clear early on that it was not going to benefit the large majority of High teams in Nova Scotia, ourselves included,” explained head coach of Citadel, Jon Dyer. “Thankfully the NSSAF stepped in and switched things quickly. Since that time, games are more competitive and we’re seeing a more balanced schedule with like opponents.”

And SJA is a like opponent. They are also undefeated going into this game which makes it even more intense. Head coach of the Flames, Steve Majury, has been very clear on what the message was throughout this week of practice as they prepared to face the Phoenix, “Very simply, our message is that we need to be extremely physical this week while minimizing turnovers and penalties. We have tremendous team chemistry this season and our players are unified in the task at hand.”

Given the massive divide between the now tier 1 teams from the now tier 2 teams, Citadel and SJA will be playing at a healthier competition level where both teams can flex their muscle to their full potential.

With more competition comes the need for better execution on game day which means preparation has to be at a high level to ensure competitiveness,” said Coach Majury. 

CFC has not been provided with up-to-date standings or records, so we won’t have much to report on regarding how both teams have been doing all season and their common opponents, points for and against, etc. What we do have is how the general feeling is going into this game from some of the players on each team and their coaches thoughts on it.

Coach Dyer recognizes the need to execute to perfection this Monday night.

SJA has beaten some tough teams and is certainly a  very strong contender for the title. We need to be at our best to come away with a victory. Our preparation needs to be relentless and our players need to be locked in,” he said. “I have full confidence that our players won’t take any team lightly, and certainly not SJA. We have historically had some razor tight games with them over the last few years.”

At the helm of the offense is CFC100 quarterback Allan Young. Young said that going into this season, one of his goals was to establish his running game in order to create a more dynamic offense. The outcome of this will add to a very fast, smart game on both sides of the ball.

As an offence, we need to focus on finishing drives and keeping our defence off the field,” Young said. “We are going to come out with poise and class and be ready to secure the first round bye.”

Young will be motivating his teammates to focus on keeping the energy and tempo high for all four quarters while he focuses on running “a very smooth offense” and utilizing all of his offensive weapons.

With one official visit under his belt to Manitoba, Young is excited to see where the next stage of his football career takes him. But for now, he’s got a game to play.

Linebacker, Jacob Yazbek, for the Phoenix said that this will be their toughest game this season. “Every year besides this one we played them on TV in our turkey bowl which is a big game.”

He goes on to say that we should expect to see a “very high powered offense” that can run and pass the ball. According to him, their defense is the best in the league. He adds, “And another thing scouts should expect is poise and class. It is our teams motto and we play by that”.

Receiver CFC100 Cherokee Robinson agrees that they are very disciplined on both sides of the ball. He said that they make sure their mistakes are limited and that they play at a high compete level, fast, and physical. For him personally, he has been doubling down on his preparation for this game.

“My top three points of emphasis is watching film, route running, and also making sure my head is in the right place,” he explained. “Knowing who my matchup is makes a huge difference going into the game and plays a huge part. I need to make sure I’m in game mode Monday night.”

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Yazbek adds, “We condition every practice to get ready for our games. Another point of emphasis is doing our jobs on both sides of the ball. We know our jobs and do them right. And the last one is setting the tone early. On the first play we want to come out and hit them in the mouth and do it every play after”.

Sounds like a team who is chomping at the bit to get a bye week into the semifinals. But that won’t happen if Nick Boutilier, Mark Hamlin, and Ryan Arenberg have anything to say about it.

This year we know what our squad is capable of and know how we play our game. We just look to play our kind of game from the start all the way to the final whistle of the game. We have a great group of boys who will be relentless know matter what is thrown at us this game,” said Boutilier for SJA. 

Boutilier is one of the top defensive players in the country according to Coach Majury – high praise.

With this rivalry that has gone on for years, offensive lineman, Ryan Arenberg, knows this will game will have a special atmosphere. “This game is special as it’s two very well coached, undefeated teams playing one and other. You obviously want to come out on top and keep the perfect record.”

Keeping a perfect record will require that mistakes and turnovers are minimal, offensive lineman, Mark Hamlin, mentions this. “Winning the turnover battle is crucial to winning a football game,” he said. He goes on to say that having a good week of practice is also very important, and then being very physical and focused on game day.

Hamlin leads the Flame’s offensive line and “is a force” on the interior who continues to dominate, while Arenberg, is just establishing himself as a top offensive lineman and has been having a breakout season according to Coach Majury.

You can also look out for Brennen Travis, Connor Oake, Jonah Duykers, Ben Melanson, and Kaleb MacLeod.

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Travis is a “special player” who has speed, skill, and the drive that matches both. Oake is “tremendously skilled & athletic as our QB who is gaining confidence in his abilities weekly”, while Duykers and Melanson have been steadily improving and it’s showing on the field. Kaleb is one to keep your eye on as he is just emerging as a solid offensive player. 

But what is going to determine who gets the “W” at the end of the day. Coach Majury mentions a few more keys to the game.

We have to score TD’s against a very accomplished defence.  Citadel has defended so well over the years and continue to do so this year,” he said. “We need to have a balanced offensive attack that executes at a high level.  ST’s must contain Citadel’s speed in the return game. Defensively, we have to stop the run and minimize big plays.”

Eliminating turnovers, playing disciplines, controlling the line of scrimmage, all having the potential to win or lose a game. Coach Dyer believes that if they play up to their potential, they can beat anybody, SJA included. “But I’m sure they feel the same way and that’s what makes high school football games like this so exciting. It’s the biggest game of the seasons so far,” he added. 

With a healthy respect from both head coaches as well as their players of their opponent, it’s safe to say that this game will be a battle to the very last whistle. Neither will concede the loss, but there can only be one who is going to remain undefeated and get that so desired first round bye, setting them up for the playoff run.

Will this be Citadel’s 6th provincial championship run? or are the Flames going to put a hiccup in that plan and challenge them for that title once and for all. We’ll find out on Monday night.

 

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