Head coach Chad Canfield is convinced the Muskie football program is well on its way to recovery.
The linchpin of the outfit, after a week-and-a-half of training camp, has been the ability of players to adapt to tackling, which Canfield reports his crew has done in a hurry.
“The first week was phenomenal,” he enthused. “They [longtime assistant coaches] haven’t seen kids hit like that in six or seven years.”
The rookie head coach also is thrilled that his players have the right mindset and approach to being football players, noting it takes a special type of athlete to excel in the sport.
“They’ve really come along quite nicely,” Canfield lauded. “We’ve really got a core of football players out there.
“You never know what you’re going to get until you get them in pads,” he noted. “People can be athletes but not necessarily great football players, and we have football players out there.
“We’re really optimistic this year,” he added. “I think we’re going to have some success.”
The black-and-gold will face its first test this Friday (Sept. 3) in Winnipeg against the St. Norbert Celtics, with Canfield saying Monday that there still was plenty of work to be done before the exhibition showdown.
“There have been a lot of roles defined, but there are still some that are out there, especially at wide receiver and defensive back that need to be claimed,” he explained.
“We still have to put our passing offence in,” he added. “We have the running plays pretty much down.
“We have a play-action pass that we’ve put in, but other than that, we don’t have any passing plays in, so we’re going to have to work hard to install that into the offence this week,” Canfield stressed.
Figuring out the special teams’ lineup also is an area of attention this week since much of the first week was devoted to carving out primary roles on offence or defence.
“We still have to put in the special teams [assignments]. We’ve got some in, and we have to do a little bit more,” he noted.
“We have to find somebody who can punt the football, which, in a big group like that, you can always find somebody that can get it done.”
Canfield was encouraged that several other slots have been filled rather easily, though.
“Our offensive line is very solid,” he said. “We’ve got a few good quarterbacks rotating.
“We’ve had some great results out of our linebacker types and our running back types.”
As for the lingering question of numbers, Canfield conceded there has been a slight drop-off from the 42 who attended the first night of camp last Monday.
But he still is above the threshold of 35, which has been his goal going into the season.
As well, with school starting yesterday (Aug. 31), the team could see a bit of a boost this week.
“Our numbers are still strong,” Canfield stressed. “We’re still doing very well with that, and I think the kids are having a lot of fun.
“So hopefully they stay like that throughout the year.
“As long as we can get an offence versus defence—people capable of playing that in practice—then we’re in okay shape.”
The Muskies open the WHSFL regular season in the Andy Currie division Sept. 10 when the Elmwood Giants visit at 3 p.m.