Oak Park JV Raiders are team to beat
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This article was published 26/10/2022 (217 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The Oak Park Raiders AAAA junior varsity boys football team is on a roll in the Winnipeg HIgh School Football League’s JV division, and had posted a 6-0 record at press time.
The Raiders kicked off the regular season with a 53-6 victory against the Vincent Massey Trojans on Sept. 14. The boys trounced the Steinbach Regional Sabres 68-12 in Steinbach the following week. The Raiders then beat the Trojans again, this time by a score of 48-7.
Then the Raiders crushed the second-place Dakota Lancers 41-14. Days later, the team beat the St. Paul’s Crusaders 21-13. On Oct. 20, the Raiders beat the Grant Park Pirates 22-7 at home.
The Raiders’ 15-year-old quarterback, Kevan Savage, said that while going undefeated would be great, he’s also investing in building friendships with his teammates. Individually, Savage said he’s working on refining the accuracy and distance of his throws.
“I’m also trying to read the field more confidently and be more confident in the pocket, and throw on the run, as well. I need to get better at that,” Savage said.
Chad MacKay, who coaches the Raiders JV team and teaches math at all levels at Oak Park High School, said this season’s roster is armed with more experienced players than in recent years. The pandemic had left gaps in many players’ football resumés, he explained. Though last season was abbreviated, it still gave many young athletes a chance to develop.
“We now have players who have played the game before so that really helped us gel early,” MacKay said.
The Raiders JV team held its first official practice at the end of August.
MacKay believes the Raiders are the team to beat this season. The boys have lost little ground against their opponents, but there have been some formidable battles, particularly against the Lancers and the Crusaders.
The Raiders had to adjust the strategy for each match, MacKay said. The Lancers are fast, boasted a 4-1 record at press time and beat the Raiders 55-25 in last year’s JV championship game. Savage believes the Raiders’ well-rounded skill set, good backups and aggressive nature will continue to give them the upper hand over the St. Vital boys.
Raiders running back Onan Furst, who MacKay said is one of the best in the league, has been key in giving his team an edge. The Grade 10 student was unable to attend last year’s final against the Lancers and is eyeing a rematch.
To get his team there, the 15-year-old is working on his speed and footwork. All the ladder drills and sprints have paid off, as Furst has noticed improvement on the field. This season he’s joined on the field by his younger brother, Amyas.
Cole Garriock, the Raiders’ left tackle and left end, said consistency will bring his team to the final once again.
“Other teams can come up at any time and we just want to stay on guard for that,” the Grade 10 student said, adding that he’s focusing on gaining lower-body and core strength to make better blocks.
Garriock gave a shout-out to teammates Furst and Tavin Parani: “They’ve made some really nice plays and I can tell they’ve put a lot of work into the season.”
For up-to-date WHSFL standings, go to www.whsfl.ca
Katlyn Streilein was a reporter/photographer for the Free Press Community Review.