Youth movement could pay off for NACI Tigers football



by Eoin Devereux

The Neepawa Banner/Neepawa Press

The Neepawa Tigers are hopeful that a year’s experience on the gridiron will translate into a successful 2016. The team is heading into the Rural Manitoba Football League (RMFL) regular season in a better position than they did this time last year, when it lost a large contingent of veteran players.

That mass exodus forced the coaching staff to go young, focusing on freshman and sophomore players in key positions. Despite being one of the least experienced rosters in the RMFL, Neepawa still put together a solid 3-4 regular season record and advanced to the Murray Black Cup. Head coach Dave Clark said that last year provided experience to the younger players and that bodes well for the Tigers this season.

“Early on last season, there were some growing pains, but as the younger guys gained more experience, you could tell they also gained confidence. This season, we’re optimistic with the leadership that’s developed on the field,” noted Clark. “We also have some younger guys, who we’ll also be working with. There is a lot of raw talent out here that could really develop with the right coaching and structure. We’re cautiously optimistic that with all things considered, we’ll have a roster that’s talented enough to compete against any other team in the league.”

Training camp began on Tuesday, Aug. 23, with 41 players competing for a spot on the team. Clark said that the coaching staff is using this time to evaluate the players’ skill levels. He added that the ultimate goal is to pick up where they left off last season and build from there. “Right now, we’re hopeful that this group will be a little quicker out the gate. Last year’s team needed some time to come together because there were so many new players and not many returning veterans. But this year, there are several other schools that are dealing with that same issue and we’re hoping to take advantage of that,” noted Clark.

During the next few practices, the coaching staff will run the players through the offensive and defensive schemes, seeing where they’ll have the best chance to excel. The Rural Manitoba Football League is a nine-man football league that’s comprised of seven teams from high schools in the rural Manitoba area. The season starts at the beginning of the school year and finishes with the RMFL Challenge Cup in November.