Zach Johnson tackles Alex Sattar during the Chilliwack Huskers football camp at Townsend Park on Saturday.

Hucker hopes high at spring camp

Tis the time of year when hope springs eternal for junior football clubs.

Everyone is 0-0 and bright days are ahead. So hearing Chilliwack Huskers head coach Luke Acheson talk enthusiastically about last weekend’s spring camp and the newest recruits was to be expected.

But what Acheson said went beyond the usual optimism. Though his team is coming off a winless 2010 season, the second-year bench boss is resolute in his belief that better days are coming.

“We had about 50 first-year players, so not  a whole lot of experience,” Acheson said. “We’re not going to get all 50 of them back, but we do expect around 40, and that’s how you start building a winning team and winning program. We’re pretty encouraged about it.”

The team drew 90 players to spring camp, bringing athletes from as far away as Ontario. Acheson spent the off-season racking up the long-distance telephone charges, trying to get recruits in for a visit. What he saw didn’t disappoint.

“We had one young man (Wyatt Hawke) come in from Burlington, Ontario and he looked great,” Acheson said. “He played some safety and halfback, and in our scrimmage he had an interception that he brought back for about 55 yards. He is very excited to come back.”

Of the 90 that attended spring camp, Acheson knows several will opt for something else.

So as much as this weekend was about getting players on the field to see what they can do, it was also about the organization trying to become a desired destination.

“He (Hawke) loved the city and that was really great to hear because he’d be a great addition to our ball club,” Acheson said. “A big part of this weekend was about selling the program, showing these kids all the things I’ve been talking about on the phone for hours and hours and hours. We wanted to show them what the Huskers football family is all about.”

Acheson did well with his recruiting class last year, snagging several players who were on the radar of powerhouse programs like the Okanagan Sun and Vancouver Island Raiders.

“We got guys in here that every other team wanted,” Acheson noted. “I think it was the family atmosphere and players wanting coaches that actually care about them. The rest of the country wanted these guys, and they chose us.”

As first-year juniors, they struggled mightily on the field, going 0-10. But the jump in physical and mental maturity from year one to year two can be significant.

“For most people, bringing a whole bunch of guys back from an 0-10 club might not sound great,” the coach acknowledged. “We were very talented but very young and our lack of experience showed. We progressed as the year went on and the key is to get as many of those guys back as possible and keep building on that base.”

With spring camp over, Acheson can take another deep breath before diving into training camp preparation. He’ll spend some time looking at film before getting back on the phone.

“Some guys have already committed, which is great,” he said. “Other players maybe need to hear from us a bit more. We know some of the areas we need to augment on the team, and we’ll be working hard going after some guys to fill those spots.”

The team conducts throw-arounds for local players between now and the start of training camp on July 2.  Get more Huskers info online at www.chilliwackhuskers.org.

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