By: Mike Still (@mikestill94)
Feature photo: Senior Luc Laurin (right) will be relied upon to lead the secondary this season. Photo by hudl.com
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 Oak Park Raiders.
Team: Oak Park Raiders
Head Coach: Chris Ollson, first year
Conference/Division: Gustafson Conference, Division 1
2017 Regular Season Record: 0-6-1
2017 Playoff Record: 3-0 (Dropped down to the Vidruk Division and won the AA title)
This season, Oak Park will be looking to reclaim the historical success that has followed the program ever since its inception in 1991.
Last year, the team endured their first winless season in school history, but were able to finish the 2017 campaign on a high note after dropping down to AA for the playoffs, and claiming the CTV Bowl. The Raiders will rely on a core group of returning players, as well as some stellar athletes in order to keep pace with teams such as Vincent Massey, Sisler and Sturgeon Heights.
Oak Park returns four starters on offence, but all eyes will likely be on the pivot position, where junior Thomas Hubbard will take over for Saskatchewan commit Charlie Ringland.
Coach Ollson — who was the defensive coordinator last year and is also a former Vanier Cup champion with Manitoba — describes Hubbard as the “brains” to the team’s offence, adding that “it would be tough to find a harder working individual.”
Ollson is also excited about his squad’s multi-dimensional abilities, as, along with Hubbard, they will employ running backs Tristan Richards and Ryland Kelly, as well as variety of impact receivers, led by Justice Flett.
Richards enters his senior season looking to build off of a 2017 campaign where he averaged nearly four yards per carry. Kelly, who will be used at both running back and receiver, could be the x-factor for the squad as a sophomore, and, according to Ollson, has “breakaway speed.”
Flett will be looked upon to fill the shoes left by dynamic receiver and return man Ben Boyko. He’s coming off a tremendous summer where he represented Manitoba at both the Canada Cup and U18 flag nationals, claiming a gold medal in the latter.
The Raiders will return five players defensively, and will rely on their veteran presence to lead the way.
The front seven will be anchored by returning seniors James Bruin and Tyler McLuckie.
Bruin, a big and fast linebacker, missed most of last season due to an injury, but was the junior varsity Defensive Player of the Year in 2016, and can “stick a guy in the hole,” according to Ollson.
McLuckie, a LB/DL, is another hard hitter who is also versatile. He racked up 1300 yards in his sophomore season as a running back and can fly all over the field.
The secondary will be led by senior Luc Laurin and junior Presley Solar-MacKay. The former is labeled as a “leader in the secondary who can find the ball,” while the latter is a versatile athlete who has also played quarterback and slotback in the past, and can kick the ball. Along with Flett, Solar-MacKay was another member of Manitoba’s undefeated U18 flag team.
Short and long-term goals
The Raiders are looking to get back to their winning ways in 2018, and in order to do so, Ollson says they’ll have to “get back to disciplined and fundamentally sound Oak Park football.” Their long-term goal is to make it back to the division 1 playoffs, and contend for the ANAVETS bowl.