BY JOHN DECOSTE
Kings County Advertiser/Register
The Horton Griffins return the most players of any of the Valley high school football teams, and on paper at least, would appear to be in the best shape.
“We have 36 kids on the roster right now, and you have to be pretty happy with that,” said Griffins’ head coach Alec Hyndman. “And we’ve had a good turnout for practices which is nice to see.”
While he “knows better than to get ahead of ourselves,” Hyndman admitted, “we’re pretty excited for the season to start.”
Horton opens the season against always-strong CEC Sept. 11 in Truro.
While it will be a good test right off the bat, Hyndman added, “if we win, it’ll be good momentum, and if we don’t, there’ll be lots of time to recover.”
Horton features “veteran players who provide great leadership,” and the Griffins “even have some depth, which is something we’ve not had a lot of.”
Quarterback Greg Brown returns with a year’s experience, and tailback Robert Adams (more than 1,500 yards rushing and 19 touchdowns in 2010) will be the main offensive weapon.
Bantam Bulldog graduates Zack Gouthro and Cam Davidson both have the potential to contribute on offense in a number of ways, whether it be running the ball or as receivers.
Adam Melanson, also an all-star defensive end, will see his share of time at the fullback spot. Potential receivers include Noel Morgan, Ethan Lycan-Lang, Sam Crawford, Mike Boylen, Gouthro and Davidson.
“Losing Robert Lannan will hurt,” Hyndman acknowledged, “but Mike Boylen can be just as good, and with better hands.”
The offensive line, anchored by Doug Spriggs and Brendan Vaughan, returns intact.
On defense, Horton “returns five of our front seven,” with Adam Melanson, his brother Jacob, Zack Daigle, Chris Bernard, Josh LeBlanc, Will Stewart and Morgan potentially penciled into starting positions.
There are 10 defensive backs on the roster, and with only Curtis Bawn and Darren Booth locks as starters, “there will be some competition.”
Along with returning defensive co-ordinator Steve Melanson, Eric Cederberg and Mark Poirier have joined the Griffins’ coaching staff.
Head coach Larry Priestnall has lost some of his best players from a year ago, including Iain MacMillan, Jacob Gee, Todd Dow, Bradley Burgess and Robert Priestnall.
“We have pretty much a new team,” Priestnall says, “and you have to walk before you can run. It’s definitely a rebuilding year.”
The Gators are running around 30 players, “which should increase once school starts.”
Priestnall is encouraged by some of the players he has seen in camp. Mac Morton, Justin Murphy and Connor Hewitt are returning offensive linemen, and Brendan Burton returns at tailback.
Jacob Shepherd and Devon Reid “should battle it out for the quarterback position,” with Reid also playing linebacker on defense. Other newcomers include Kurt Getson, Luke Garagan and Sam Jennings-Lindsay, and the Gators also welcome Sydney Jackson, “our first female player.”
The bulk of the CK roster is in Grade 10 and 11, “so we’re building for the next two or even three years in some cases. We seem to have good speed, and some talented kinds who only lack the experience of football.”
Central Kings opens its 2011 schedule Thursday, Sept. 8 when the Gators host Avon View on Acadia’s Raymond Field. Priestnall confirmed “we will likely be playing some of our home games this season at CK.”
The Titans have 35 players on the roster, including 12 seniors back for their final year. New head coach Jerry Mahar, an assistant coach last year, says he is “very excited” entering the season.
Dylan DeGraaf will start at quarterback while Mahar expects the running game and the defense, led by linebackers Sam Bigelow and Devin Richardson, to be among the team’s strengths as NKEC tries to improve on a 4-4 record.
“I’m very proud of our team and coaches, and the core of volunteers who work tirelessly to assure this team is a success,” Mahar says.
At the same time, he adds, there can’t ever be too many volunteers, and “we can always use the support of the community.”
NKEC is hosting a season-opening jamboree Sept. 4 starting at 4:30 p.m. with all four Valley schools taking part as well as Halifax West and Prince Andrew from HRM.