High school game PREVIEW (ON – SIMCOE): Vikings, Wildcats duke it out in Battle of Grove Street

BARRIE NORTH VIKINGS (0-0) vs. EASTVIEW WILDCATS (0-0)

As we mentioned in yesterday’s Week 1 preview, it was hard to choose a Game of the Week for Week 1 in Simcoe County, as there have been some good matchups on the docket on both the Public and Catholic side of the board.

But, we settled on this one: Eastview at Barrie North. Why? Well, it’s threefold. 1) This is Barrie North’s first action since being eliminated from last year’s postseason due to an OFSAA technicality; 2) This game has the best prospects for being a tightly-contested game; and 3) Geography. While all Barrie schools are relatively close in proximity, these two are on the same street – Barrie North on the East side, Eastview on the west.

And, while North may be the “home” team, neither team is really at home. The game is being played on the turf at Georgian College’s Barrie campus, a venue both these clubs will share as their home fields this season. North will play all its home games on Georgian’s turf, while Eastview will do the same for all but one of their home dates, which will be played at the school.

So, now that we’ve settled that, let’s delve a little deeper into the matchup we’re affectionately dubbing, “The Battle of Grove Street.”

Last season was a “disappointing” one for Eastview, said their co-Head Coach Mark Welch. They finished the year 2-4, with their only wins coming against the Orillia Nighthawks, 28-22, and the lowly Nottawasaga Pines Timberwolves, 51-6. The Wildcats were then dispatched in the first round of the playoffs by these very same Vikings, by a score of 45-0.

For Barrie North, their season ended not on the field, but in their school cafeteria. After going 4-2 – including four straight victories to close out the season – they easily handled Eastview in the quarter-finals, which set them up for a date with the 5-1 Bear Creek Kodiaks. The Vikings pulled off a massive comeback late in the game to stun the Kodiaks 35-27, presumably punching their ticket to the SCAA Finals against the undefeated Nantyr Shores Tritons.

But, that all came crashing down the morning before the final was to be played. The Vikings were informed they had dressed an ineligible player, and were therefore disqualified from the game, allowing Bear Creek to take their spot. Vikings receiver Elijah Kent, who transferred from Barrie Central after it closed and had spent the fall season in Florida, did not sign the necessary paperwork to allow him to play in the league. So, all six regular season games and the two playoff games were declared as losses for the Vikings.

So, that sets up this season-opening matchup featuring two teams eyeing bounce back reasons for the polar opposite of reasons. One is looking to bounce back from a mediocre season, while another looks to rebound from what can be described as the quintessential definition of heartbreak.

Vikings coach Burke Erwin expects a much better version of the Wildcats this time around.

I expect Eastview to be very well coached and fast,” he said. “They force you to prepare for all three phases of the game which occupies a whole week of practice. They are hungry.”

After the anguish that accompanied the completion of last season, Erwin says that, while his team is driven to get to where they should have been last year, they’ve put those events behind them and are simply focussed on the here and now.

Motivated, for sure,” he said when asked how his team is feeling heading into the new season. “But [last season] is in the past. This is a new team and the kids know it. They want to earn it this year and if they happen to redeem themselves in some way – that will feel great.

Eastview bench boss Welch says that while getting off to a good start would be nice, it’s not necessarily essential.

“In a 6 game season starting well is important but all league coaches know the true goal is to improve each week,” he said. Erwin agrees, saying last years Vikings’ squad is a perfect example of having the ability to atone for a poor start: “It’s important, but not critical,” he stated. “It how you finish (in my opinion).

“What I feel is very important is the work ethic and character. That is a bigger indicator.”

Erwin says, going into Week 1, he knows he’ll face a wide variation of schemes and play calls. This has been the emphasis in practice thus far for North.

Developing our own systems in response to the variety of schemes that we will face, he said when asked about his team’s focus on the practice field this week. “I have not faced Eastview for a while so we will review all sorts of formations. They really challenge you with great special teams play.” On the Eastview side of the ball, blocking and run-stopping schemes have been at the forefront of the team’s mind heading into the season-opener.

Something the coaching staffs at Barrie North do is swap levels every three years, and this year is one of those years. For the past three seasons, Erwin and co-Head Coach Peter Glass have been manning the Junior Viking ship, while Gary Hamilton, who now moves back to Junior, has been coaching the senior program. Erwin explains the nuances of coaching at the two different levels: “[In] Junior we teach the same systems that we use at the Senior level. It is intended for our kids to step in immediately with system understanding,” he said.

“The whole process of becoming physical is in part mental – and of course athletic.  We look at the entire year as room for growth.”

The Vikings’ coaches preach performance as a method of receiving playing time, both academic and athletic. The better you perform on the field and in the classroom, the better chance you have at seeing game action.

We try to get every player in [the game],” Erwin said. “It is performance based, but we want the best (and qualified) players on the field. They have to earn it in practice and in school.  Based on score, lots of players get reps.”

Eastview, however, makes it a point of getting everyone on the field. The added plus of being a veteran player is the chance to see more of the field.

“At Eastview everyone plays,” Welch said. “A few veteran players will play both O and D.”

Both coaching staffs are extremely impressed by how their rookies have fared in making the jump from Junior to Senior ball and expect them to be key contributors to their respective squads.

“Our Grade 11s will be major contributors and have adapted well to the pace of Senior Football,” Welch said of his new Wildcats. “Playmaking newcomers include receiver Will McCullough, linebacker Cam VanBodegom and linemen Wes Binnie, Andrew Brown and Zach Smith.”

On the North side of things, Erwin believes their rookies are better prepared for the rigours of the Senior game than most because of the fact that players are coached by the same men all throughout their high school careers.

Very well,” he said when asked how the youngsters have adjusted. “Because we spend time with them at junior, they are really prepared for senior football. Bottom line is senior football is much faster.”

 

Photos Courtesy of: Barrie Examiner; Barrie Today; Toronto Star

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

BARRIE NORTH:

QB – Zach Patfield
OL – Jack Sweazy
DL – Kiernan Thomas
LB – River Wells
LB – Clayton Mrazek
LB – Duncan Montague
LB – Wyatt Brown
LB – Kody Mumford

EASTVIEW:

QB – Braidon Foster
RB – Destin Pearson
WR – Will McCulloch
S – Carter Drury
LB – Mackenzie Smith
LB – Cam VanBodegom

SLEEPERS

BARRIE NORTH

None

EASTVIEW

SB/LB – Reilly Korkola
S – Josh Flindall

 

 

 

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One Comment

  1. aaaawwww leaving out norths best d lineman as a player to watch…. guess thats what happens to d tackles

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