By: Mike Still (@mikestill94)
Feature photo: Dakota’s Josh Yanchishyn (left) and St. Paul’s Brody Lawson (right) will both be key to their team’s success on the field tomorrow night as the 2018 WHSFL season opens. Photo by Josh Yanchishyn.
Each week during the WHSFL regular season, manitobafootballfeed will be picking one contest to analyze. This week’s game will be St. Paul’s 1 taking on Dakota in Division 1 Potter action. This contest is also a rematch of last season’s ANAVETS Bowl, which the Crusaders won 35-0.
Just under a year ago, the St. Paul’s Crusaders were celebrating a second consecutive ANAVETS Bowl title, while the Dakota Lancers were left to wonder what could have been. Well, tomorrow night at 5:30 p.m., the Lancers will have the opportunity to avenge their championship game loss as they host the Crusaders in the first game of the 2018 WHSFL regular season.
Both of these teams were nothing short of impressive in exhibition play, as St. Paul’s knocked off Garden City 46-0, while Dakota shut out Sisler 53-0.
The Crusaders passing game was stellar against the Fighting Gophers, led by senior pivot Brody Lawson, who was last year’s ANAVETS Bowl MVP after throwing for 125 yards and three scores. If Dakota is going to be able to hand St. Paul’s their first regular season loss in over seven seasons, they’re going to need to get pressure on Lawson, led by their “aggressive and athletic” defensive line, according to head coach Ray Jarvis.
Leading the way in the front four will be last year’s Potter Division Rookie of the Year Jordan Friesen, who had four sacks as a sophomore in 2017. He’ll have support from players such as Josh Ma and Raffaele Caligiuri in the linebacking corps.
Offensively, the Lancers have an experienced group of offensive lineman who helped pave the way for a tremendous day on the ground against Sisler. The Crusaders will look to combat the Lancers attack with an athletic front seven of their own, led by senior defensive lineman Dylan Duha and junior linebacker Nathan Carabatsakis, who is the top ranked Manitoban in the #CFC100 class of 2020. Additionally, sophomore linebacker Nic Pereira — who wreaked havoc at the U16 Western Challenge in the summer — will provide a physical edge to the Crusaders defence.
Two x-factors to keep an eye out for are defensive backs Josh Yanchishyn of Dakota and Trae Tomlinson of St. Paul’s. The former had 9.5 tackles and an interception a year ago and will be the veteran in the secondary after the departures of Andreas Kastellanos (U SPORTS, Toronto), Nick Conway (U SPORTS, Manitoba) and Scott Brakel (CJFL, Winnipeg). The latter is currently the second ranked player in all of Canada for the #CFC100 class of 2021, and is an early contender for Rookie of the Year. He’s also a solid choice as a return specialist for the Crusaders, as he’s one of the fastest sprinters in the province.