It is amazing what a win will do.
Even a preseason win has the potential to kickstart a team, which is why Chilliwack Huskers head coach Luke Acheson looked a little more optimistic around the practice field this week.
A 19-14 come-from-behind win up in Prince George has the coach and his team believing in themselves as they take on Victoria’s Westshore Rebels Sunday afternoon (2 p.m.) at Exhibition Stadium.
“Not getting a taste of that all of last year, some things stick around and nothing cleans the air quite like a win,” Acheson said on Tuesday. “They worked hard. They didn’t stop believing and fighting and I was proud they were able to scratch out a win against a very improved Kamloops team.”
The Huskers received some standout individual performances against the Broncos.
Quarterback Adann Hendrickson cemented his status as the top pivot, scoring one of the majors while leading his team back from a 14-0 abyss.
The 20-year-old Maple Ridge native has been handed the keys to the offence this year, taking over from departed Clayton Kroeker. Hendrickson has been behind center before, but never as THE guy.
“With his athleticism and improvisational skills, we don’t win that game in PG without him,” Acheson said. “He’s not playing any other positions this year, so he’s able to just focus on being a quarterback. He’s working closely with (offensive coordinator) Jon Klyne this year, which has helped him with the reads and progressions. He has a grasp of the offence and knows where we want to go with it. And if things break down, he’s great at making something happen.”
How successful he is will largely depend on the supporting cast, starting with the offensive line. Chilliwack’s biggest problem in recent years has been keeping QBs on their feet.
Acheson has no one with any experience to back up Hendrickson if he goes down, making the O-line all the more crucial.
“They’re more mature, stronger and quicker than last year and I’m hoping that’s one of the areas we’ll be much improved in,” the coach noted.
As of Tuesday, veteran Brandon Moore was slated to anchor the line at left tackle, with Greg Paquette on the right side.
Paquette sprained his ankle in PG, leaving Acheson to ponder a plan B that might involve moving big guards Tanner Gee or Jonathan Abril outside or going with youngster Brandon Doig.
In a perfect world, Abril (six-foot-eight and 380 pounds) and Gee (six-foot-four and 275 pounds) would stay inside.
“There’s three guards in the mix, because Shawn Mellesmoen had a very good game in PG,” Acheson said. “That’s a battle to watch.”
Brennan Adrian looks set as the starting center, replacing departed B.C. all-star Mike McLean.
If Hendrickson gets time, he should have some playmakers at his disposal.
Acheson thinks the running game is in solid hands with veteran tailback Ben Skerrett, Misha Otanga and Jake McKinnon.
“Jake’s a good runner with great hands, a mature kid who is very humble and hard working,” Acheson said. “We’ll put him in position to try and make some plays for us.”
When the Huskers go to the air, the primary target will be Adam Leggott.
The Saskatoon native finished last season with 33 catches for 410 yards and one touchdown.
“He’ll be the leader, and I’m expecting even bigger things from Adam this year,” Acheson said.
Acheson is also excited about local products Cody Parray and Dylan Boykowich.
“Both guys are from the Giants, and it’s saved us having some of these kids staying local,” the coach said. “Our other wideout spots aren’t necessarily set in stone, and there’s a battle every week. Right now, Danton Nagorski (Portage la Prairie, Manitoba) is stepping up.”
Defensively, Acheson sees a group of playmakers that includes standout linebacker Mike DeCloedt and newcomer Cole Herrmann. A force at the midget level, Herrmann could be the best defensive end in Chilliwack since David Bosch.
An experienced secondary includes talented returnees Jayson Bates, Nick Wingfield, Levi Weaver and Andy Bolen.
“A rookie I’m really impressed with is Tanner Hamade out of Abbotsford, who’s starting at corner,” Acheson added. “It’ll be trial by fire, but he looks good so far.”
As nice as all this sounds, the proof must come on the field, starting this weekend against a tough and talented Rebels squad. Starting the season with a home-field win would go a long way towards dispelling the ghosts of the 0-10 2010 season.
“We’ll look to work hard and continue to improve, set daily goals and be better than we were yesterday,” Acheson summarized. “If we do that, everything else will take care of itself.”
Get Huskers info at www.chilliwackhuskers.org.
Get BCFC info at www.bcjuniorfootball.ca.