The Kildonan-East Reivers are heading into the 2013 Winnipeg High School Football League season with a new man in charge.
New bench boss Jason Hawkins took over the team for its spring camp earlier this year, and officially kicked off spring camp on Aug. 19 at East Side Eagles Field.
Though he has the shiny new title, Hawkins is no stranger to Reiver football, having held a coaching position each year since the program began in 2006. After rising up from assistant head coach and defensive co-oordinator under Daryl Didyk last year, Hawkins has surrounded himself with a solid staff of coaches from the community.
He said he won’t be overhauling a team that went 3-4-1 last season, falling to Vincent Massey (Brandon) in the opening round of the playoffs last year.
"The big motto is positive encouragement and consistent progress," he said. "We’ve been working hard since the spring. We always have here at Kildonan-East, but I’m trying to make them do some extra conditioning drills, trying to get in their mind that if you work hard, good things will happen."
The Reivers had over 30 players out to camp, and Hawkins hopes to pick up a few extra bodies when school resumes in early September to round out the roster with 35 to 40 players. The Reivers open the season Sept. 4 when the Portage Collegiate Institute Trojans of Portage la Prairie visit at 4:30 p.m.
Kildonan-East is bringing back 22 players from last year’s team, with the bulk of those being Grade 11 students expected to fill a bigger role after acclimatizing themselves to the league in 2012.
"It’s a little tough when you’re in Grade 10 playing high school football against some 11 and 12s," he said. "I’m hoping those guys step up this year."
Quarterback Zach Goring is at the forefront of the youth movement. The Grade 11 student is taking the reins after serving as an understudy to Khaliel Dennis, who led the Kas Vidruk AA Division in completion percentage at 66.2% last season.
"Last year I learned a lot," said the East Kildonan resident. "You need to be a leader and have confidence in your team to make sure everyone makes the plays and protects you."
Complementing the 16-year-old pivot will be running back Brock Lucy, who has represented Football Manitoba, and Grade 12 receiver Zach Winsor-McKinnon, who is expected to break out.
Hawkins expects linebacker Ben Mikuloff, defensive back Lucas Capra, and safety Christian Guenette to anchor the defence.
Guenette, in his second year with the Reivers after spending his Grade 10 season as a Miles Macdonell Buckeye, is up for the challenge.
"(Last year) could have went better, but we did a lot of things well. We learned a lot of things last year, including myself," he said, noting the year all in all was "positive". "I have complete confidence in this team we can make it to the championship."