There may be a lot of questions as the Langley Rams prepare for the 2018 Canadian Junior Football League season, but given his track record there is little doubt that new head coach Matt (Snoop) Blokker has most of the answers.
Blokker was hired in late October, and hit the ground running and recruiting.
Nine months later the “winningest” coach in B.C. junior football history has assembled a squad that looks nothing like the team that went 4-6 and were soundly beaten by the Westshore Rebels in the BC semifinal last season.
Only about 25 of the almost 80 players in camp this year wore a Rams jersey last season.
Coach Snoop scoured the nation looking for junior football talent and came home with what he calls a very skilled group of new recruits – some straight out of high school and several with junior or Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) experience who will be among the best at their position in junior football this season.
The first thing on Coach Snoop’s shopping list was to find a quarterback, and he had his sights set on Didsbury Alberta native Duncan Little, who was with the University of Calgary Dinos in 2015 and then played for the Calgary Colts Junior team, where Blokker was head coach in 2016 and 2017.
Blokker is known for developing great quarterbacks and has already been working with the 6 ft. 3-inch, 220-lb graduate of Airdrie’s George McDougal High for two seasons.
Little is in his junior football prime at 21-years-old and poised to give Rams fans lots to cheer about in 2018.
With Little locked up, the next task for Blokker was to get the kid someone to throw to. He went to work and the Rams are now loaded with talent at receiver.
The Rams receiving corps got a huge boost when Langley native Max Joseph opted to return home and join the Rams program, the speedy receiver was a provincial all-star for the North Langley Kodiaks Midget program in 2016 and then moved to Kamloops, where he was a standout for the junior Broncos last season.
Blokker expects the 20-year-old to be a key player for the Rams this season, at receiver and on special teams, where he was among the league leaders in punt and kickoff returns in 2017.
Six-foot-five, 230-lb receiver Jevon Cottoy has already caused a buzz around the league, especially here in the BC conference.
Cottoy also comes to the Rams out of the Calgary Colts program, where he was the Prairie Football Conference’s rookie of the year in 2014.
At 6 ft. 5 in., 230 lbs, and very athletic Cottoy will be a force to be reckoned with for BCFC defenders this season.
One familiar face among this year’s receivers is veteran Nick Agnoletto, who joined the Rams in 2014, and quickly established himself as one of the top receivers in the conference. Now a five-year veteran, Agnoletto’s athletic ability, experience, and leadership will make him an important part of the Rams offence in 2018.
With his receivers locked up, Blokker dipped back to the Alberta well and added former Colt Xavier Ramsay to a group of talented running backs that include veterans Joe Carter, Brett Westad, and Devon DaCosta.
Playing in the Prairie Conference, where rushing yards are tough to come by, Ramsay averaged 6.8-yards per carry for a total of 783 yards and nine touchdowns for the Colts in 2016.
The Rams offence will revolve around a big offensive line, with veterans Chris Derksen, Spencer Schmitke, Niko Lazarakis, and Yano Yanda being joined by 6 ft. 3 in., 320-lb newcomer Tyrel Pierce out of London, Ont. – who is as strong as he is big.
A key addition to the Rams offensive line in 2018 is rookie Ethan Croome, he is still only 17 but the 6-ft. 4-in., 310-lb prodigy out of the North Langley Kodiaks midget program is already being touted as a player with the ability to play at the next level and beyond.
Defensively the Rams will be solid, despite a big turnover in players.
The 2017 BCFC rookie of the year Kyle Clarot and veteran safety Nathan Murray will patrol a defensive backfield that improves every time they are on the field.
And, the big surprise in camp has been the play of corner Joel Klaassen, who made the switch from receiver to corner this season and has been one of the Rams most consistent defensive backs to date.
Defensive line coach Marvin Pope has instilled a renewed intensity into the Rams front seven, and the former CFL star will get the most out of a group anchored by 6 ft. 3 in., 285 lb, defensive lineman Skye King.
The graduate of Calgary’s Notre Dame High School comes to the Rams out of York University, where he was selected to the OUA all-rookie team in 2016 and was a starter in all but one game for the Lions during the past two seasons.
Tucked in behind a defensive line – which includes veterans Dillon Cusker, Cameron Cross, and Nicolas Sorace – will be an aggressive group of linebackers with veteran Isaiah Stewart leading a group that features Airdrie Alberta’s Reid Bohnet and Enoch Angbongy as well as former Valley Husker Brendan Kohls.
In a conference where every game is crucial, the Rams will be looking to get off to a good start when they host the Westshore Rebels this Saturday, Aug 4, at their hometown stadium in Langley’s McLeod Athletic Park.
The Rams and Rebels have an intense rivalry that creates entertaining and highly physical affairs. This one should be no different… kickoff is at 4 p.m.
– Chris Swartz is the vice-president of media for the Langley Rams Junior Football Club.