By: Mike Still (@mikestill94)
Feature photo: Senior linebacker Gus Brosseau will help lead a strong core of linebackers for Dryden in 2018. Photo by Chris Marchand
Over the next month, manitobafootballfeed will be previewing each of the 31 varsity teams battling for supremacy in the Winnipeg High School Football League, which kicks off its regular season on Wednesday, Sept. 5. Below is a breakdown of the Dryden Eagles.
Team: Dryden Eagles
Head Coach: Geoff Zilkalns, 28th year
Conference/Division: Gustafson Conference, Division 1
2017 Regular Season Record: 5-2
2017 Playoff Record: 0-1 (Lost to Vincent Massey Brandon in the AA quarterfinals)
For the second year in a row, the Ontario-based Dryden Eagles — who have a student population of just over 600 — will be moving up a division, this time playing in the top tier of the WHSFL. They’re coming off the best three-year run in program history, and owe a lot of their recent success to the 2013-14 cohort that recently graduated.
Among that group were impact seniors Jarrett Hicks, Thomas Moline, Kadin Taylor and Joel Ottertail. All four athletes hold some form of team record, while Hicks and Moline will both be playing for the Winnipeg Rifles this season. The former was also the best statistical quarterback in school history.
Much like in years past, the Eagles will utilize an option-based attack, which will highlight multiple runners, all of whom have some experience heading into 2018.
Two senior running backs to keep an eye out for are Mason Desautels and Aiden Bibeau. The former “catches the ball well and runs hard,” according to Zilkalns, while the latter played hockey out of town last fall, but was “a solid contributor as a grade 10.”
With the graduation of Hicks, the duties at the pivot position will be handed to junior Carter Armstrong, who Zilkalns describes as “quick and intelligent.” He missed most of last year due to injury, but “will need to seize the opportunity and lead.”
The offensive line returns intact from 2017, and Zilkalns is hoping their cohesiveness will yield results. Two players that will be relied upon to open holes are seniors Tanner Apland and Gary Norman. The former is the team’s “biggest and most experienced offensive lineman,” while the latter “has a positive attitude and is a great teammate.”
Defensively, a pair of senior linebackers will lead the way in Gus Brosseau and Bailey Murrell. Brosseau is “a very physical hitter,” who Zilkalns believes will likely lead the team in tackles. Murrell has “excellent size and strength” and is a very dedicated player.
The secondary will be led by junior Nick Pinette, who Zilkalns noted as “an aggressive tackler with range.”
Short and long-term goals
With the Eagles moving up a division for the second year in a row, Zilkaln’s short-term goal is to “keep his players healthy as they transition up.” Much like Steinbach, who moved up last year, Dryden’s long-term goal is simply to “play hard all year regardless of the outcomes.”