Isaac Athans isn’t just expecting a banner season for the KSS Owls senior football team.
The 17-year-old quarterback has much more colourful ambitions.
“Definitely blue banner, win a provincial championship,” he said. “That’s the dream, but, I mean, a week at a time.
“We’ll take it game by game.”
Well, there are few better times to dream big than two days before your first regular-season game.
KSS opens the B.C. High School Football campaign at home on Friday night against the Abbotsford Panthers. Kickoff is 4 p.m.
The Owls are hoping to pick up where they left off last Friday when they ended the exhibition schedule with a 42-0 victory over the Rutland Voodoos at CNC.
Abbotsford, however, presents a more significant challenge than RSS did.
The Panthers (2-0) beat the Notre Dame Jugglers 20-16 last week to earn the No. 5 ranking in the province.
Owls head coach Chris Cartwright said on Wednesday after practice that Abby executes well and had developed quickly into a feared program. The Panthers also have size on their side, but Cartwright said the Owls can counter that.
“We’re going to have to play tough,” said Cartwright, in his fourth season as head coach. “We’ll have to use our speed, and that’s something we’re confident can beat (size).”
It could be a match of high flyers versus ground and pound.
Alongside Athans, the KSS offence will look to receiver Nolan Ulm and running back Tariq Brown.
Ulm, six-foot-two and 195 pounds, is turning heads south of the border and is entertaining scholarship offers from American colleges, his coach said.
Athans said the KSS offence isn’t shy about getting down field.
“We’re a big passing team. We like to air the ball out a lot,” he said.
“We’re looking way better this year. I think we have a really good chance.”
Along the ground, Brown rushed for 112 yards against Rutland, and as a Grade 11 student, is challenging for a starting job.
“We’re trying to get a little bit more depth at running back,” Cartwright said. “We’re going to have some competition, I think, there which is a good thing for this group.”
The defence will also rely on speed.
Middle linebacker Easton Schmuland, 17, said the Owls are also hoping to outsmart their opponents. They aren’t afraid to take chances, even before the plays happen.
“We’re an attacking defence,” Schmuland said. “There’s a lot of movement. We confuse a lot of teams, a lot of pre-snap movement. We come from a lot of different directions.
“We lack in size, but we make up for that in speed.”
Linebacker Nathan Gilbert is another Owl who will look to control Abby’s attack. He racked up 24 tackles and three sacks as KSS went 1-1 in the preseason.
“I think this year is definitely our year to contend for a blue banner,” Schmuland said.
Having said all that, the Panthers may not care much about the razzle-dazzle.
Abbotsford skews heavily toward the run game, and the Owls could see more than their fair share of running back Jalem Catlin and a big offensive line.
At least the Owls will have the crowd on their side. A big crowd is expected Friday night, the KSS homecoming game.
“It’s always fun to win in front of the home crowd,” Schmuland said.
The school has events planned today and Friday to pump up the players, the coach said.
“There’s a lot of excitement in the school,” Cartwright said. “There’s a lot of positive energy here. … There’s a good vibe and lots of spirit. These are a great group of boys. They make it easy to be fans.”
Taking Notes — KSS has 10 returning Grade 12 veterans and 16 players from their 2018 junior varsity championship team. “The seniors are being leaders … but those kids that came from junior varsity, they came with a winning season. They’re learning from each other, which is awesome to see,” Cartwright said. … KSS (1-1 in preseason) earned an honourable mention in the B.C. rankings. The other KSS preseason game was a 34-7 loss to Vancouver College, the No. 1 team in B.C. … The coach also gave special mention to kicker Risto Zimmer for spearheading the special teams. … KSS was 2-5 last season and lost in the first round of the playoffs to eventual champion Mount Douglas. … The 2-0 Vernon Panthers are the No. 1 Double-A team. They beat Holy Cross 40-0 last week, but don’t play this week.