Building on inaugural experience

2013 Wilson Challenge:  Team Nova Scotia hopes previous learning experience translates into success

At last year’s Wilson Challenge, Team Nova Scotia provided one of the most memorable moments in the tournament’s history.

“Last year, we had a tremendous last game and won it on a 46 yard field goal with 1.2 seconds left,” describes Team Nova Scotia’s under-17 head coach Chris Valardo.  “It was a great way to finish the tournament and it showed the competitive spirit of Nova Scotia football.”

After a successful debut at the tournament in 2012, Team Nova Scotia has returned back to compete in the under-17 category at the 2013 Wilson Challenge.  The tournament begins Saturday in Quebec.

“We are very excited about our team this year,” comments Valardo.  “Last year, we went to the Wilson Cup and it was a huge learning experience for us.”

“We took a team to Quebec made up of 15 year olds and this year our team is made up of 16 year olds. We have a much better understanding of the level of competition at the Wilson Cup, the demands of the travel and the tournament.”

Team NS under-17

Offensively, Team Nova Scotia will have a trio of quarterbacks – Cameron Valardo, Morgan Laws and Duncan Patterson.  Patterson was supposed to have played for Team Nova Scotia at last year’s tournament; however, he sustained a serious leg injury during the Nova Scotia Spring Varsity League (NSVFL) season.  Therefore, Patterson makes his return on this year’s squad.

However, there are several dangerous offensive weapons on Team Nova Scotia to watch for during the tournament.

“On offense, we are very fortunate that Cameron Valardo decided to play under-17 this year for Nova Scotia at quarterback,” explains Team Nova Scotia’s head coach. “He had a tremendous year in Ontario in 2012 at St. Andrews College and then with the Ontario Selects under-17 team in Texas.”

“His experience and arm strength will be a definite strength of our offence, along with Nick Tzanteaus at running back.  Nick is a very explosive runner with outstanding top end speed and a really solid group of receivers led by Morgan Laws, Marquis Diggs and Garrett Jewers, all returning players.”

If there is a key strength Team Nova Scotia will capitalize on during the Wilson Challenge, it will be the experience and depth of the team’s defensive core.

“Our team this year is very balanced,” assesses Valardo.  “The strength of our defense is its experience.”

“Returning players Robie Holland (defensive line), John Main at linebacker and Dion Thomas Hodges at defensive back are a great core along with a number of solid defensive players. Our defensive line is probably the best group of athletes at their position that I have ever had on a provincial team. We have had some great defensive linemen like Adam Melanson and Jacob LeBlanc, but we have never had 7 defensive linemen that could all start and contribute to the team.”

Team Nova Scotia’s under-17 coaching staff is a mixture of new and returning coaches.  Overall, Valardo is thrilled of the makeup of the staff.

“I am really excited about our coaching staff this year,” says Valardo.  “We have some great returning coaches like Larry Priestnall (head coach, Central Kings Gators), Keith Skiffington (Dalhousie Tigers) and Steve Melanson (defensive coordinator, Horton Griffins), along with new comers Blair Sampson (head coach, Dartmouth High Spartans), Peter Fitzgerald (Sir John A MacDonald) as well as Riley Brown, Jack Creighton , Bryce Fisher and Matt Lalonde all from the Saint Mary’s Huskies.  These young guys are so good with the kids and do a great job working with the team.”

Moreover, the team have added a couple of coaches from Ontario, who have already made their mark on the Nova Scotia provincial under-17 team with their vast gridiron coaching experience.

“We have also added two fantastic coaches -Len Gurr and Michael Carroll from St. Andrews College in Aurora,” explained Valardo.  “Scott Annand of Cobequid Educational Centre Cougars and Gordon Beattie Citadel Phoenix, both formerly of the Saint Mary’s Huskies were supposed to coach on our staff and had to withdraw due to work and family commitments so we were very fortunate to have two coaches with CFL, CIS and top level HS coaching experience apply to coach for NS.”

“Their impact has been immediate and the feedback from players and parents have been tremendous, Football Nova Scotia is very proud to be able to put such high caliber coaches and athletes together to represent our province.”

As Team Nova Scotia prepares for their first game against the Quebec Elites on Sunday July 7th at 5:30 EST, there are several goals the squad and coaching staff have set their sights on achieving at this year’s tournament.

“We hope to go to Quebec and play hard and represent Football Nova Scotia in a positive way,” comments Valardo.  “Our kids have worked hard, they played in the indoor spring league and although we have not had an opportunity to play an exhibition games prior to going to the Wilson Cup, our kids have been playing since March and I know they are ready to play.”

“A lot of people both on and off the field put a tremendous amount of effort into our provincial team programs and the goal of our under-17 program is to prepare our top 16 year old football players to compete in the Football Canada Cup as 17 year-olds and eventually go onto CIS, CGEP , Prep schools even NCAA and beyond. Over the past five years we have watched as over 60 of our provincial team players have gone onto Prep Schools in the US and Canada, CGEPs , CIS and NCAA.”

However, Football Nova Scotia hopes this tournament will further help to develop players and programs in the future.

“These are the goals of our program and although we always want to win when we step on the field, our larger goal is to develop high quality football players to go and compete at National and international levels and be high character young men,” said Valardo.  “We at Football Nova Scotia are very proud of how far we come over the last five years but we know we are only scratching the surface of how far we can go!”



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