Chilliwack’s Valley Huskers kick off the 2014 junior football season with a titanic test, hosting the Okanagan Sun Saturday night at Exhibition Stadium.
Kickoff is 7 p.m. for the BC Football Conference opener, which pits the Huskers against a team with national championship hopes.
The BCFC hosts the Canadian Bowl in early November, and the Sun believe they’re good enough to win it all.
They will provide a true measuring stick for what Huskers rookie head coach Adam Smith hopes he has accomplished.
He feels he’s had a good offseason on the recruiting trail, and there’s an upbeat feel around Exhibition Stadium these days. But much of that disappears in a hurry with a lopsided loss.
A reversal of fortune for a Husker team that’s won just three of its last 40 regular season games should start with the defence.
A linebacker with impact-player potential could make a difference.
Winnipeg native Jesse Di Fonti is expected to start right away.
“He played for Oak Park, one of the better programs in the league,” Smith said. “He’s got eventual CIS size and potential and he’s a hard hitter who’s not afraid to step into the holes and mix it up.”
Brody Slagman is back after twice being named the BCFC’s defensive player of the week in 2013.
Another Abby import, Nick Hood, has impact player potential on the defensive line.
Standing six-foot-three and weighing 285 pounds, he could be a run stopping terror.
“He got a little frustrated at one of our practices, picked a 285 pound offensive lineman clean off the ground and threw him aside like he was nothing,” Smith said with a chuckle. “He’s a little raw, but his strength could make him a very good nose-tackle type.”
Smith also mentions returning defensive back Hayden Jeffries.
“We are expecting big things from him at half back,” the coach said. “He is one of the biggest hitters on our team and will be counted on for not only coverage skills this year but also big things in some blitz packages designed for him.”
New and returning players will be slotted into a defensive scheme that will be big on aggressiveness and misdirection.
Corey Hamade, Chilliwack’s offensive coordinator last year, has switched to the defensive side of the ball with some big ideas.
“It’s a surprise, so I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag,” Smith said. “It’s something I haven’t seen any junior team use, a really interesting concept. For the offenses we face, I expect to see a lot of confusion.”
With luck, that starts Saturday.