Updated: Sep 28, 2018
Expectations have never been higher for the Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers to start the 2018 season. Back to back provincials championships at the Junior Varsity level means the Senior team for this season is loaded at all levels. As a result, they were ranked as the top AAA team in the preseason coaches poll.
With that level of expectation comes added pressure, but that isn’t changing the process for the team from Cloverdale.
“In terms of changing what we’ve done, it hasn’t changed anything” said Tweedsmuir’s head coach Kurt Thornton. “We have a process at this program, process at this school and we follow that process. If everyone buys in, the wins should take care of itself.”
“It shows that other coaches are taking notice that we have some talent at Tweedsmuir” explained corner/wide receiver Kojo Odoom. “No doubt that’s given us a little bit of an edge. We got an expectation every game and it means a lot for us to be ranked and have that reputation to uphold.”
The Panthers this season will bring a winning experience that perhaps is unprecedented, with nearly every player having some sort of championship experience thanks to their JV success. It’s essentially a ‘championship or bust’ mentality, and there is a sense that this year’s team could be special.
“Our expectations is to go all the way” Thornton said. “That’s what we're here for. We have the talent to do it, but everyone in the program has to understand that it’s not just going to happen. We’re coming off back to back junior varsity provincial championships so virtually every kid out there has won a championship. They just have to take that experience into the senior level and understand that it takes more.”
“This team here has got a lot of natural ability” said Nick Kawaza, longtime coach of the Surrey Rams and who has more football experience in his pinky than most programs do in total. “They have to learn to work together, and they have to learn to work with each other required to have success, and I think they’re doing that. [. . .] My expectation for us this year is to compete hard and well. We should enjoy some success and if we’re fortunate we might enjoy a little more success.”
The offence this year will be led by quarterback Tre Jones and receiver Kojo Odoom. Jones, the grade 12 with a rocket for an arm, should put up huge numbers with an offence that has weapons to spare.
“Our line has to play well in order for us to succeed [and] our receivers have to catch the ball” he explained on what has to go right this season. “Everyone just has to be on the same page and wants to win.”
After two games against tough American competition and a 78-7 thrashing of Centennial, the Panthers now face longtime rival Terry Fox. The program got its first win ever against them last season, and is looking forward to proving what they’re worth against last year's Subway Bowl finalists.
“I’ve played with some of those guys before on different teams” said linemen Noah Bedard on what he’s looking forward to against Fox. “It’s always nice to go against them head to head.”
“There a run heavy team so we’re going to have to do a good job stopping the run” elaborated Odoom. “Playing hard and also playing tough because they're a smash-mouth team. On offence we just have to execute.”
“We’re going to have to match their physicality in the box, we’re going to have to stop the run, and we’re going to have to stop the big play” said Thornton on the potential gameplan. “They play really sound defence, they’re usually not too tricky. They like Cover 3 and Cover 1 and they do what they do well. They’re a really well coached team and that’s why they’re a contender.”
Nothing less than a trip to BC Place will do for Tweedsmuir in 2018, and that dream could get a big boost if they can beat Terry Fox this Friday. Kickoff is at 3pm at Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary.
Written by: Nick Bondi