By Garrett Simmons
Westwind Weekly News
The season has kicked off for the Raymond Comets.
Raymond, the defending Tier 1 champions, after a 45-17 win over Ross Sheppard in last November’s Alberta Bowl in Edmonton, started things off on Aug. 25 with a home date against the 2012 Brian Fryer champions from Harry Ainlay.
The big-city juggernaut emerged with a 25-15 win over Raymond, as the Comets started a challenging schedule that includes a Sept. 2 trip to Idaho to take on Coeur d’Alene and games against St. Joseph on Sept.9 and Lethbridge Collegiate Institute on Sept. 22.
But this year, the team will have some additional numbers, as the roster boasts a few more players than in past seasons.
“We are looking to be dressing around 36 players for this year’s team,” said assistant coach Matt Baines. “Believe it or not, that is a ‘high’ number for us. Most years we are around 28-30 players.”
Baines added the 2022 version of the Comets is as deep as he’s witnessed in recent memory.
“We feel that we have probably as good of depth as we’ve ever had with this year’s team,” he said. “We have more depth on the offensive and defensive lines than we have had for quite some time.”
That depth in the trenches is a welcomed sign for a Raymond team that always punches above its weight class, with games against the biggest and best teams Calgary and Edmonton has to offer. And while the big guys up front will be depended upon heavily, the Comets likely will only go as far as the team’s Grade 12s will take them.
“We are expecting a lot from our seniors this season,” said Baines. “Last year, they were the backbone of our team and we had a great season. We look forward to them finishing their high school careers on a high note.”
Contributions should also come from Raymond’s younger players, as coaches are excited to see how the youngsters from last year’s bantam team fare at the high school level.
“Also, our Grade 10 class is going to be interesting,” said Baines. “Last season, they went undefeated and won the Bantam Tier 1 Provincial Title. We look forward to seeing who can contribute from our younger class.”
It all adds up to a 2022 roster that includes a solid mix of rookies, sophomores and seniors.
“We also have several Grade 11 kids in key positions that will need to make big plays for us,” said Baines. “We feel we have a good balance between the grades.”
Teams across Alberta are already a few weeks into their seasons, with the mid-August start of training camp now in the rearview mirror. Baines added Raymond’s coaching staff took those first few weeks to iron out the kinks and prepare for a tough road ahead.
“It’s just to get a good look at our squad and be able to execute a clean offense and sound defence,” he said. “We really need to play mistake-free football.”
As always, Baines added the hope is players step onto the field with a solid summer of training behind them.
“We always stress the importance of cardio and weights,” he said. “We give the players these programs that they follow and I think we’ve had a lot of kids work hard over the offseason. We do strength and speed testing and many players have increased in all areas.”