© Times-Herald photo by Matthew Gourlie
Central's Jacob Laboccetta goes up to make a catch between a pair of Vanier defenders in action from last season.
The 2012 football season was the year of the Grade 12.
Nowhere is that more evident than at Central.
The Cyclones saw 22 seniors graduate from last year’s team. Despite an incredibly high rate of turnover, the Cyclones have some key players returning and some talented youngsters ready to assume a larger role.
“We have six guys who are returning starters. With 24 starters and only six returning that opens the door for a lot of young guys to get some more playing time,” said Cyclones head coach Colin Belsher.
“It also puts a lot of pressure on our veterans to perform at the level that they did last year. Now being Grade 12s, there’s a lot of pressure on them to lead these young guys. They need to teach them and help them understand what high school football is all about.”
One of those veterans who will be leaned upon heavily is Parker Chow. In his Grade 10 season as a receiver, Chow was a dangerous deep threat for the Cyclones and he finished the season with seven touchdowns. This year he will be on the other end of some touchdown passes as he lines up under centre.
“We have a great athlete in Parker Chow quarterbacking for us this year,” said Belsher. “This will be the first time since I’ve been here that we haven’t had a true quarterback versus having an athlete play quarterback. I’ve had (Kahlen) Branning and I’ve had (Bren) Forbes and they’ve been two of the best quarterbacks to come through the city in some time.
“Parker is going to do a great job. He’s an amazing athlete and he learns quick. He’s going to make some things happen.”
Chow will have a great target in Jacob Laboccetta. The senior receiver was a key member of the Saskatchewan team at the Football Canada Cup this summer. Also on that Football Sask team was senior Braydon Johnson who will anchor a young offensive line.
“We have a pretty big offensive line. They’re young, but they’re big,” said Belsher.
Grade 10 tailback Zach Hagerman will team with Grade 11 fullback
Chris Cooper in the backfield. Cooper is also expected to play defence.
The Cyclones may be looking for 18 new starters, but they had 60 players on their roster last year. Though they lost a lot of seniors, they do have a big group of returning players.
“A lot of teams really relied on their Grade 12s and we were an example of that,” said Belsher. “We’re young, but there’s a lot of guys stepping up. They know it’s their turn to step into a role that they maybe watched last year. It’s an opportunity for some guys who may even be coming from the bantam program to get some time right off the hop.”
Belsher is happy with the balance of his team. He doesn’t feel any one area is a real big strength or a glaring weakness.
“On defence I think our strength, outside of David Julé on the end, is probably our linebacking corps,” said Belsher. “(Julé) has put on a lot of size and a lot of muscle.”
The Cyclones will start the season Saturday when they host Weyburn at 3:15 p.m.