By Dan Plouffe
The Ashbury Colts enjoyed a very strong 6-2 senior football season in 2010, but the final match was not the best one to remember – a 37-14 defeat at the hands of the St. Peter Knights in the city final – and they’ll now try to build a new legacy in 2011.
“That game last year I think is a distant memory now,” notes Ashbury coach Dwayne Smith, who’d directed the Colts for 12 years. “We graduated a number of players from that team, so we’ve regained focus with our new squad and we’re moving forward and we’re excited for our season with the independent schools.”
On top of some new faces moving up to the senior ranks, the Colts also enter the unknown for their first season as members of the CISAA independent schools league after deciding to withdraw from the local national capital loop. (More on that here)
But despite the loss of several key graduates such as runningback John Funston (now a Concordia University Stinger), and receivers Robbie Ashe and Tim Lo (now at McGill University), the Colts can rely on the steady presence provided by star quarterback Duncan Lurie, who is now in his senior year.
“Here’s a kid of incredible maturity,” Smith says, identifying great field vision and an ability to read opposing defences as two of his quarterback’s main strengths. “He leads both by example and vocally, on and off the field.”
Lurie, who was elected as a prefect student-leader by his peers at Ashbury College, will have numerous offensive weapons at his disposal this season.
The fourth-year quarterback will have his summertime under-18 Eastern Ontario teammate Benji Oppenheimer available as a go-to receiver, while Grade 11s Irving Casabon-Sosa and Julien Moore are both formidable forces in the backfield.
The Colts defence is anchored by John Biewald, who also played in the Canada Cup for Eastern Ontario’s U18 team.
“The team looks good. I’m optimistic we’ll be competitive,” Smith says. “I’m excited and a little bit nervous, as I typically am as a coach. I know my players feel the same way.”
Smith has a tough time guessing how his squad might stack up against new opponents that they’ve only played a small handful of times for exhibition contests in recent years. St. Michael’s, Upper Canada and St. Andrews colleges are the traditional powerhouses in the Conference of Independent Schools of Ontario Athletic Association.
“We want to get in there and feel out this league,” Smith explains. “Obviously we want to be as competitive as we possibly can, but we’re still kind of in the dark as to what the calibre of our opponents are.
“Hosting St. Michael’s College this Saturday should give us a good indication of what we’ve got coming over the next few weeks.”
ASHBURY ALUMNI STEP UP IN FORCE
Smith expects there will be a good crowd out for Saturday’s game, and all games this season, since they take place on weekends. A good chunk of the spectators are always Colts alumni, who have spearheaded a new initiative this year to support the Bob Gray Memorial Bursary.
A function of the newly-created ‘A Club’ – which will host tailgate parties at home and away games, send out e-mail newsletters with team updates and strive to build overall fan support – former player Darcy Walsh has donated cufflinks, which are now being sold as a fundraiser for $100.
“It’s a great way to express spirit for the team and also act as a good fundraiser for the program,” Smith notes. “We are very fortunate. It seems to me that more and more alumni are now stepping up and supporting the school in many different ways – be it financially, or with their time, or different ideas like Darcy Walsh did.”
The Bob Gray Memorial Bursary is named after the former coach of 30 years at Ashbury who lost his battle to cancer four years ago. It is given to a well-rounded student who shows academic ability, plus ability outside of the classroom, and requires financial help to attend the Rockcliffe school.
Lurie will be the first to graduate after receiving the bursary.
“(Alumni support) makes a huge impact on our programs and a huge impact on our kids,” Smith adds. “At the end of the day, it gives opportunities for kids that couldn’t afford to come to Ashbury to get this calibre of education and experience.”
JR. FOOTBALL KICKS OFF SEPT. 24
After the home contest against St. Michael’s, the Colts make their first road trip to Villanova College the following Saturday, where the junior football boys will make their season debut.
Kickoff for the Colts’ home opener is at noon.
Read related story: Ashbury football leaves local NCSSAA to join CISAA independent schools’ league
Read previous story: Miserable end to strong Colts season
Read previous story: Colts escape semis, will play for city crown Saturday
Read previous story: Ashbury knocks Knights from perch
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