Call it a learning experience.
At the beginning of the school year, as Earl Marriott’s senior varsity football team prepared for its first season at the AAA level, Mariners head coach Michael Mackay-Dunn knew to temper expectations for his team, which was coming off back-to-back provincial titles in AA.
The competition would be better, after all, and some of the team’s top players from the prior season had graduated.
What he didn’t plan on, however, was losing his starting quarterback Owen Dickie to a shoulder injury – a setback that threw the entire offence into flux.
“We had to move some people around, into spots they maybe weren’t ready for, or comfortable in,” Mackay-Dunn said.
The Mariners went winless in the AAA Pacific Divison, with an 0-4 win-loss record, but with the season now over, Mackay-Dunn is choosing instead to focus on the positives.
“We knew going into the season that we were going to need all the stars to align for us to be really competitive this year,” he said. “And we were competitive in most of the games, though there were a couple where we weren’t really in the ballpark.”
Faced with the losses – not to mention the injury to Dickie, whom Mackay-Dunn called “an incredible leader” and “our best player” – the veteran coach was impressed with the effort and the attitudes of his team’s older players, especially those who were playing their final games at the high school level.
“The core of our team was really resilient. They could’ve said ‘enough of this’ and packed it in, but they didn’t,” he said.
“They kept showing up and working hard.”
Mackay-Dunn also may have found his team’s future quarterback in Grade 9 Sam LaRoue, who took over signal-calling duties in the absence of Dickie.
In fact, the coach said he sees many of Dickie’s best qualities in the youngster.
“Sam is a lot like Owen – a great athlete who loves to compete,” Mackay-Dunn said.
“And he’s just a great kid… and both him and Owen are very smart, very hard-working. And what you see on the field, that’s how they are in the classroom, too.”
• Marriott’s Grade 8 team, which plays at the AA level, is still on the field, and coming off a 42-6 win over Hatzic Secondary earlier this week.
The Mariners are scheduled to play Tuesday against Seaquam.