Twenty-six new faces will get their first taste of Tier 1 Midget football this weekend, as the Lloydminster Red Dogs look to defend their Capital District Minor Football Association championship, and open the season this Saturday against the St Albert Storm.
Head coach Rod Kirby lost a lot of talent from last year’s league championship team, having to replace half his roster with new recruits. But that doesn’t mean this year’s team is going to be a push over by any sorts. Despite a lack in size compared to last year, this year’s rendition of the Red Dogs look to be fast and strong, and will certainly challenge for another CDMFA title.
“We are going to be a fast team, we got lots of fast players,” said Kirby. “We are not going to be as big, but speed wise we are faster. Considering we graduated our two best receivers, our receiving core looks really good.”
Kirby is expected a balanced offence this year, with a mix of ground game and throwing. With the speed the Red Dogs possess, the offensive playbook can be wide open, as Lloydminster can spread the field quickly and make opposing defences chase them down.
The playbook is always changing for the midget football team, as Kirby said, you have to design it around what each player brings to the game, and what works best as a group.
“When you create a playbook you do it around what you have on the field,” said Kirby. “You want to play into the strengths in the team for sure. We are very balanced. We have a platoon going on at running back. Our receiving core, we have a couple third year receivers and four new guys that are really going to contribute.”
The challenge this year will be with the experience level and handling a very young team. Experience wise, the Red Dogs are not as heavy as in years prior, but for Kirby, it just becomes an opportunity for the young players to learn to win at the midget level.
“That might be the one concern, how we react to a pressure packed situation without the veterans on the team this year,” said Kirby. “These guys will have to learn to win.”
Fortunately, the Red Dogs are the benefactors of Lloydminster Minor Football, and Wheatland Football League. While the new recruits may not have experience at the midget level, many have years of experience in bantam and peewee, or playing high school football at either Lloydminster schools, and some from Wainwright.
It has been a great complement to the Red Dogs program to have players well trained in football before they come to the midget level, and with championships in both Tier 1 and Tier 2, results are showing on the field.
“I find at this level they come in, they are raw and rookies, but I had someone comment that they look like they have been practicing the last five months,” said Kirby. “We got men coming in that want to learn, that want to play football and they are coming here for a reason. It is a friendly competition. They know there is only 24 starters. We have a lot of guys capable of playing football so there is competition for sure to get playing time.”
The Red Dogs will take on the St Albert Storm on Saturday at 5:30 p.m., at Fuhr Sports Park in Spruce Grove.