The Langley Rams had an amazing season in 2018, and team owner Dana Matheson is hoping that returning veterans and new recruits can bring that same magic to the field in 2019.
“Last year, we were conference champions, we won the Cullen Cup,” said Matheson.
It took the Saskatoon Hilltops, four-time Canadian Junior League football champions, to finally defeat the Rams in their quest for supremacy.
“It was some pretty crazy conditions,” Matheson said. After playing most of their games in B.C. in the summer and fall, the Rams headed to Saskatchewan in November and played in frigid conditions.
But the young players still had an amazing year and earned a bye for their conference for 2019 – which means a possibility that Langley could play host to a national championship game.
They’ve been getting ready for months.
“The team is looking extremely strong,” Matheson said.
Recruitment from across the country has given the team the deepest roster it’s ever had, he said.
“Our offense, I think, will be capable of putting up some really big numbers,” said Matheson.
The area where the team lost the most players after their 2018 season was on the defense side. But new recruits including UBC players have come on board.
Howie Zaron remains head coach and general manager, and he and his staff have been snatching up more talent.
“The players love playing for him,” said Matheson.
Although the season didn’t start until Aug. 3, and the first training camp was held on July 7, many members of the Rams have been in training since February – just a couple of months after they faced Saskatoon.
There have been non-padded informal practices, group training, and since the training camp, official training has been four nights a week.
Matheson said there are a number of players, new and veteran, who fans will want to keep an eye on this year.
• Duncan Little is a fifth year player, quarterback, and team leader
• Running back Andrew Pocrnic is an all star and former Kamloops Bronco
• Jesse Walker, a wide receiver, was one of the last cuts from the BC Lions and played four years at the University of Manitoba
• Kyle Clarot did amazing work for the Rams last year, and the All-Canadian cornerback is returning this season
• Jarryd Taylor will bring his wide receiver skills honed over two years at Montreal’s Concordia University
• UBC alum Cole Barron will provide power as a middle linebacker
• Khalik Johnson was a 2017 All-Canadian wide receiver and played for Carelton University, and returns for another Rams season
• Another university player is Isaah James, of U of Saskatchewan, who will be on the defensive line.
• Liam Stewart led the team in receptions during last year’s playoffs and is back for the Rams again.
• On the offensive line, All-Star tackle Nikos Lazarakis and All-Star Left Tackle Ross Baykey are returning
The Rams start their season on Saturday, Aug. 3 at 4 p.m. in McLeod Athletic Park’s stadium. They’ll be facing off against one of their main B.C. rivals, the Vancouver Island Raiders.
They’re kicking off the season by offering $10 gift cards to Sammy J Pepper’s restaurants in Willowbrook for the first 250 fans through the door and 15 per cent off most food items for Rams season ticket holders.
With tickets $15, Matheson said the goal is to create a great sporting event that’s affordable for families.
“It’s such a high level of football,” he said.