Royals look to take next step in development
Our Lady of Mount Pleasant Royals running back Quinten Twomey is ready for the new six-man football league season to start. The Royals are hoping to make the jump from first-year team in 2016 to playoff team this year. Josh Aldrich/ Camrose Canadian
As far as inaugural campaigns go, the Our Lady of Mount Pleasant Royals had a successful venture into six-man football last season.
Two wins and a shot at a playoff spot in the final game of the regular season is about all any first-year football program can ask for. Now the task is to use that experience as a foundation and launching point.
They head into this season with momentum and growth on their side, with 15 players suiting up for the first few practices of their year.
“We’re looking forward to winning a few more games and making the playoffs,” said head coach Joe Kucy.
Perhaps the biggest step forward for OLMP is that most of their players already know how to put on the various pieces of equipment, not something they could claim 12 months ago.
They will still be a young team this year, but they have a core of Grade 11 players that all know what to expect this year. At the centre of what they do this year will be one of their few Grade 12s, and only all-star from last year Quinten Twomey at running back and linebacker.
Twomey is one of the few players on the team with multiple years of experience having played eight years with the Camrose Buffaloes minor football program.
“A lot of other players were looking to me for advice, so it was kind of nice that I can, and Mr. Kucy, could give advice to the other players about where to run and how to catch,” said Twomey, who is hoping to make the jump to junior football or the U-Sport level.
Kucy said he’s a straight-ahead runner who’s experience with the Buffaloes has paid off.
“He’s got skills … you can tell he’s played football before,” said Kucy.
While Twomey was the centrepiece of their run-based offence a year ago, they are returning Grade 11 quarterback Will Knopf and are hoping to diversify their systems a bit more this season.
“It was tough, just never playing before,” he said. “There was a learning curve playing kids who had been playing for eight years. Now this year will be a lot better.”
Knopf said having football at OLMP is a big boost to the school.
“It means a lot, just because kids were leaving our school to go to the Comp because it was the one program we didn’t have,” he said. “Now we have that, and our numbers have gone up significantly from last year.”
One of the keys to their early success last year is the fact they are surrounded by good all-round athletes who are encouraged to play as many sports at the school as possible. Several of their players are also playing on the volleyball team this year.
That athleticism is highlighted in the six-man game more so than the traditional 12-man Canadian football game. The field is still 110 yards long but it is 20 yards narrow. There is also little room to hide behind the line of scrimmage with only a few down linemen, as opposed five or more. The defence is going to figure out what you are doing a lot quicker and will have fewer impediments in their way. But it also means an offensive player only has to make one or two men miss and they will have an open path to the end zone. It is not uncommon for games to turn into track meets with more than 100 combined points scored.
“It is quite offensive based,” said Kucy. “You’re not going to see a lot of games that are 14-7 or to that effect. There’s a lot of up and down the field which is quite offensive.”
The Royals beat Ponoka 73-59 for their first win while a 51-35 victory over Heritage Christian 51-35 put them in position to earn a playoff spot.
Both the Royals and Holy Cross entered the contest with 2-4 records and the winning team would punch their ticket to the postseason. The Royals came out on the wrong end of a 55-50 score, however, it gave them a taste of what is possible and has them setting their sights on getting over that hump this year.
“I think we’ll have a lot better outcome in the wins, especially, and hopefully more experience than most team,” said Twomey. “Hopefully we can make playoffs this year. I think we have the team to do it, and a lot more players too.”
The Royals open their season on Friday against defending league champion St. Joseph’s Collegiate in Brooks at 5 p.m. The Royals are on the road for the first month of the season, playing their first home game on Oct. 7 when they host Caroline at 4 p.m.