With the first home game coming up on June 2[SUP]nd[/SUP], The Forest City Thunderbirds are shaping up for a stellar season in their Junior Varsity and Varsity leagues. Head Coach John Darnell is optimistic about how his teams are coming together. “The numbers are good, we have more depth at each position, and we have some highly skilled players entering the JV league.”
The group of kids starting this season looks solid, and the team is come together with a marrying of balance between offensive and defensive lines. While neither line is outshining the other, they are both showcasing their equal strength, and athleticism. In the case of the varsity level, it is the offensive line that is standing out the most for coach Darnell since two players, Lucas Reeves (Oakridge) and Jacob Helm (St. Thomas Aquinas), are returning to the team. “These are two very intelligent, young guys, and there is no doubt that they will be recruited out of university”.
The main concept with the Thunderbirds for coach Darnell is to form a cycle in which players transition through the JV league, and then move to the VR league. It is in this cycle where the strength of the Thunderbirds lies. Having been under a similar style of coaching, and constant reinforcement by their coaches, players have a more natural and organic feel on the field. This comes as a direct response to these players having been pulled through the league playing and competing with each other, which has instilled a type of comradery and understanding that you wouldn’t find in a team focused on recruiting players. “We’re focusing on familiarity in the program,” said Darnell, “The type of athlete we strive for is one with an emphasis on commitment.”
Looking back on last year we can see that the JV league had a good season when we consider the number of new additions, and the number of experienced players moving up to the VR league. Regardless of finishing with a .500 season, the coaches were happy with the players’ drive and competitiveness, and hope to see this passion moving forward into the current season. The Varsity league started off the 2011 season hot, beating one of the toughest leagues in the conference, The Sudbury Gladiators. Coach Darnell has stated that this is something that should be mirrored, albeit with more stamina this season, due to the strength of the Offensive Line. Both teams will be looking to improve on in-game performance, with the goal to finish each quarter strong. “It’s a game of stamina, will power, and the basics,” said Darnell, “If you finish well, you’ll do well.”
The two biggest competitors going into this season will be The Burlington Stampeders, and The Twin Cities Predators, for both the JV and VR leagues. However, with new coaches like Aaron Geisler (Special Teams, JV) and Brock Burgess (OFLC, JV), combined with returning coaches Matt Snyder (OC, JV) and Rob Annen (DC, VR), the outlook of The Forest City Thunderbirds is positive. The biggest challenge for coach Darnell? “The players’ commitment to practices,” he said, “work itn football, It’s a difficult marriage.”