#CFC50 high school preview (Tantramar Regional Titans – NB): Titans boast explosive rushing attack

The Tantramar Titans, led by head coach, Scott O’Neal, are coming off an impressive championship season with plenty of ammunition to make another run in 2016. With a physically dominant offensive line that is ready to pave the way for all-star running back, Aidan O’Neal, the Titans are a team that will slash through opponents in the run game and break the will of opposing defences.



Having to make up for the loss of several key starters, including their starting quarterback, the Tantramar Titans still have some adjustments to make, and with a running style of play that is no secret to opposing coaches, coach O’Neal knows his team needs to develop an effective passing game in order to balance their attack. But with a roster that he describes as “focused” coach O’Neal understands that the major key to finding success in the new season is to physically outwork their opponents, and understand that no game will be easy.

The Titans are rolling with a two-back rushing attack this season, and with several studs on the offensive line and perhaps the team’s most explosive athlete, Aidan O’Neal, running the ball behind their blocks, it is clear that the Titans’ fortunes rest on the running game.

“Our running game is everything for us,” remarked Titans’ head coach, Scott O’Neal. “We have two running backs, Jared Prescott and Aidan O’Neal. Aidan was just named to Team Canada as a returner, so he is going to be key for us this year. We’re going to have a two-back look this year to mix it up and keep teams off balance.”


Offensive line is the position group of strength for the Titans this season, and with a traditionally run-based attack, these key starters will be looked upon to lead the way in 2016. Among this offensive line group is Kyle Tower, Dylan Estabrooks, Zach Cormier, and Isaac Humber, four physically talented blockers who will create huge lanes on every run play.


“The key part of our team this year is our offensive line,” commented the Titans’ head coach.

When it comes to their quarterback situation, the Titans are turning to a fresh starter to replace the loss of 2015 all-star quarterback, Nevin Becker. New starter, Jeff Lafford, will get his opportunity to manage games for the Titans’ offence and help provide the needed balance to their highly effective rushing attack.

“We’ve got a first year starter at quarterback, but it’s not really a question mark for us,” offered coach O’Neal. “I know he can get the job done, this will be his third year in the system but he hasn’t had many reps.”

One major adjustment for coach O’Neal, who also serves as the team’s offensive coordinator, is the fact that Lafford’s more traditional playing style does not exactly fit the mold of what they are used to having at the quarterback position.

“He’s not really a runner,” added coach O’Neal. “That scares me a bit because we’ve always had a running quarterback.”

One thing that will ease Jeff Lafford’s transition into becoming a starting quarterback is the crucial help and playmaking ability he will get out of Tantramar’s standout receiving threat.

“Our key receiver will be Jacob Hampel,” the Titans’ head coach said. “He’d be my wide receiver, 6’2, good hands, good athlete.”

On the defensive side of the ball, The Titans will be welcoming back some impact leaders and true difference makers. Along with standout defensive lineman, Riley Tower, the Titans will look to their linebacking corps and their best defensive back to shut down opposing offences.

“Defensively, the key guys are our linebackers, Aaron Rose and Jack Estabrooks,” offered the Titans’ head coach.

“Our best defensive back will be Sam Alward,” added coach O’Neal. “He’s strong half, but he can go anywhere.”

Having a strong defensive unit is one of the main priorities for the Titans’ coaching staff when building the roster for the new season.

“We always want to build the defence first,” coach O’Neal said. “If you’re stopping teams and you can take the ball and pound it and run, I mean, we play in a marsh, there’s a lot of wind so we’re not a pass team. We run the football and teams know it.”


Another major part of the Titans’ game which is expected to thrive again in the new season is their well-coached special teams unit. Reflecting their overall motto of outworking the opponent, special teams is an area that the Titans always have placed a high importance on.

“I think a key part to our team that we maybe work on a lot more than any other teams is our special teams, they have always been a key to our success,” offered coach O’Neal. “They are coached by David Burns, he has been a coach in the league for twenty-five years and he’s an animal, and he makes sure we have the special teams ready to go.”

With their style of play, and the importance that time of possession plays in their overall philosophy, having a fundamentally sound special teams unit is one of the main keystones of the Titans’ approach to winning.

“With our team we start with our defence, we go special teams, and then we make sure we can run the football,” described the Titans’ head coach. “We’re a possession team, we cause a lot of turnovers, we lock down on defence, and therefore, the special teams are the key and then we build our offence as the season goes on.”

Coach O’Neal expects the Titans to rally around their veteran leadership on both sides of the ball to overcome the loss of the key starters from last season’s championship roster, and the Titans’ goal for the 2016 season is simply to be ready to physically outwork every opponent they face.


“Our focus is to keep this thing going forward, to keep moving forward,” the Titans’ head coach said. “We realize we are going to have a lot of inexperience at a lot of key positions, but we’re going to look to our veteran leadership, take one game at a time, and just be physically ready to play each game, and we can control that by just working and being in shape to play. That’s always been our motto, to be prepared and just physically try to beat teams.”

The Titans have one specific area they recognize needs improvement, and that is the development of their passing game. However, with the realities that come along with playing on a windy marsh, coach O’Neal also knows that the run game, along with special teams and strong defence, will always be the foundation of the Titans’ offensive attack.


“Playing on the marsh, you can say you want to have a passing game, but you get there with 100 mph winds and you can’t throw the ball five yards,” offered coach O’Neal when describing his team’s offensive philosophy. “We’re a run team, throw in a little play-action and a couple screens, but we have to work on our passing game, absolutely.”

Coach O’Neal is fully aware that things need to be adjusted slightly in order to keep opposing defences on their toes, and one of the main areas that has been worked on leading into this season is the Titans’ passing game.

“We do have to be able to pass the football, because teams know that we’re a running team,” admitted the Titans’ head coach. “I think year after year the defensive coordinators are getting better and smarter, and they are going to find a way to shut our run down, so we have to work on our pass game, and we have been.”

Looking at the full season schedule, the Titans have some serious rivalries that offer some exciting competition, along with a rematch from last year’s championship. Playing in a league that is constantly improving and raising its level of play, coach O’Neal understands that repeating last season’s success will not happen without the necessary focus and hard work.

“I think that overall the whole league in my opinion has gotten better this year,” admitted coach O’Neal. “I think that every team is getting better. Our main rivalry is Riverview obviously, we faced them the last couple of years in the playoffs, and Moncton High, that’s our two big rivals.”


Coach O’Neal knows that his team has one major advantage going for them in an area that many team’s struggle with, and that is the amount of fourth year players The Titans develop in their football program. The difference this makes is invaluable, as the 2016 Tantramar Titans are battle ready, focused, and committed to putting in the work every single day.


“The way our system works at Tantramar is we don’t have enough kids to have both a bantam team and a high school team, so we’re probably one of the few football programs that get four year kids,” coach O’Neal said. “I think we have ten of them this year, so they’ve been getting hit and pushed around the field since grade 9. Not a lot phases them, if they can make it the four years they are focused and just want it.”

The Titans’ coaching is key to their success, and coach O’Neal is taking one major lesson from last year’s successful season that will keep the Titans on track throughout the challenges of this season.

“I learned about that commitment and the focus that you need to have throughout the season,” coach O’Neal said. “You can’t wane from week to week, it’s got to be every single day, and I’m on these guys, I’ve got to keep them focused. I learned that it’s hard to win, and I think The challenge this year is simply to understand it’s not going to just come to us, we’re not just going to win again, we have to dig deeper actually because now teams are gunning for us, we’re the hunted now.”





2015 RECORD: 6-0

#CFC50 2015 RANKING: N/A

HEAD COACH:  Scott O’Neal

ASSISTANT COACHES: Peter Estabrooks (defensive coordinator), David Burns (Special Teams)

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Kyle Tower (offensive line), Dylan Estabrooks (offensive line), Zach Cormier (offensive line), Isaac Humber (offensive line), Jacob Hampel (wide receiver), Jeff Lafford (quarterback), Jared Prescott (running back), Sam Alward (defensive back), Aaron Rose (linebacker), Jack Estabrooks (linebacker), Riley Tower (defensive line)

KEY LOSSES: Dylan Cormier (Mount Allison), Nevin Becker (Saint Mary’s)

“X” FACTOR: Aidan O’Neal (running back),

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