The Miles Macdonell Buckeyes football team overcame a slow start in 2012 to fall just one game short of the summit.
Despite coming so close, it might be an even more shocking run if the Buckeyes find a way to pull it off again this year.
Miles Mac posted just a 3-4 record in Winnipeg High School Football League John Potter AAA Division play last year, but orchestrated two upsets including defeating Dakota in the league semis, before falling to the St. Paul’s Crusaders in the final.
The Buckeyes have jumped down a division and will compete in the Kas Vidruk AA loop this year. Head coach Dan Washnuk said the team will still be in a tough situation, with only six returning members from last year’s club. Twenty-five players, including versatile quarterback Jayden McKoy, graduated.
Miles Mac had just 15 players, at most, out to its camp as of the team’s Aug. 28 practice, but Washnuk expects to field a club when the season begins Sept. 5 at home against Crocus Plains.
"Last year, we had 18 at summer camp and we still managed to get our season together," said Washnuk, who noted summer camp attendance has been sparse the previous two summers.
"We lost to Murdoch (MacKay) Week 1 because we weren’t ready as a team. This year, we’ll have a very hard time with Crocus."
Washnuk, a former Winnipeg Rifles junior player, stressed his club will need to get its act together immediately in order to win a game or two early and keep playing into November. As the 2012 Buckeyes demonstrated, anything can happen in the post-season.
"If we tank the first four games and we’re out of playoff contention, well, it’s great for setting up for next year, but I don’t really care about next year yet," Washnuk said.
The burden of keeping the team afloat will rest on the shoulders of the 12 regulars out to practice, including running back Bryce Villanueva, who was in contention for the provincial team before sustaining an injury, and Mateus Braga, who improved greatly in the off-season to the point where he will start on both sides of the ball this year. Washnuk is also pleased to nab former Transcona National Joe Proulx for this year’s squad.
Washnuk noted several members of his coaching staff are top-flight football minds who have played and coached with the Rifles and with the provincial program.
"It’s a phenomenal coaching staff, but it’s quite frankly getting wasted right now," he said.