#CFC50 high school previews (NS): Central Kings Gators


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United and focused on execution: Central Kings Gators are in position to go far in 2016

The Central Kings Gators are a closely knit team after growing together last season and reaching the division championsip game with a roster largely made up of rookies. Dual-threat quarterback Connor Ross is ready to lead the offensive attack once again, and the explosive Gators receiving corp is looking to build upon last season’s outstanding campaign. Led by head coach Larry Priestnall, The Gators know what mistakes need to be cleaned up and are ready to be highly competitive once again in the 2016 season.

With a majority of the team returning from last year, the Gators have the rare opportunity to build upon last season’s results without having to fill too many holes left from graduating players.

“We only had 3 players graduate last year so we have a strong nucleus of players returning,” offered Gators head coach Larry Priestnall. “We had 23 rookies last year and made it again to the Championship game and we expect to be in the thick of things again in 2016. I expect a strong leadership from our grade 12s this year and because of this strong group of returners I expect a positive year.”

On top of a strong foundation of returning players, the Gators have some serious talent on both sides of the ball who are expected to make a big impact in 2016.

“We have 3 players playing at the provincial level this summer (Nick Clark & Darien McBride Under 17 and Connor Ross Under 18), we are looking for big things from Nick, Darien and Connor,” offered the Gators head coach. “Also Tylor Lloyd and Brennon Ellis should step it up this year on the defensive side of the ball, as well as Colton Balsor who will be doing most of our offensive running the ball.”


The Gators will lean heavily on their dynamic offensive attack led by 2015 Division MVP quarterback Connor Ross and a talented receiving corp that is coming off a productive season.

“Division MVP Connor Ross will be returning as our QB. He was a threat both with the run and pass last year and looks at continuing to lead the Gator’s for 2016,” said the Gators head coach. “Our receiving group of Geoff Mullin, Eric Hollifield, Nick Clark and Eric Visser will be the strength as all four will be returning starters. Also out of these four, three were all-stars and one was rookie of the year in our conference. Last year this group accumulated over 1700 yards through the air and 24 touchdowns.”

Even with their formidable passing game, the Gators also plan to present an overall balanced offensive philosophy by still relying on the rushing attack provided by their second year running back, Colton Balsor, and the dynamic Ross himself.

“I feel we will be pretty balanced this year with the strong arm of our QB, the returning of our all-star receivers and our 2nd year running back. I have always been a run heavy kind of guy, but with Dave Ross in there as my OC things have changed and we are throwing the ball much more. But I will say give me a 250 lb fullback and I will be run heavy once more.”

There are big expectations for Central Kings in 2016, and with last year’s mistakes having largely been a product of the team’s inexperience, Coach Priestnall knows that the Gators now have the potential to really put things together and take the next step. This progression towards a championship victory will also be aided by the addition of two new defensive coaches.

“We need to focus on our execution and not hurting ourselves with turnovers and penalties,” explained the Gators head coach. “Our inexperience last year showed at crucial times in some of our games and we also need to play 60 minutes of football, we always seemed to start playing in the second half and slept in the 1st half. I feel with our two new coaches Dave MacDowell and Dave Marriage our defense will be a much stronger.”


Gearing up for the new season, the Gators coaching staff has a clear vision of what challenges face them on their road to a division champsionship.

“I say we have two challenges this year, find some big men to protect and we need to find a QB that will take over for Connor,” admitted coach Priestnall. “Also, with 23 returning players we as coaches need to coach our players up so they can perform at their highest level.”

The Gators are looking to their biggest playmakers to serve as the main leaders in 2016, along with the large number of second year players and seniors who came so close to winning a championship last season.

“If I had my way I would wish that all my returning players would step up as leaders of the team, but I will be looking at my grade 12s as my leaders,” added coach Priestnall. “Also with provincial experience, and to see what is expected from these groups representing NS, I feel Connor, Nick and Darien will be our key leaders on both offense and defensive teams.”

Playing in a highly competitive division that will require the Gators to bring their best week to week, there are a few key matchups and rivalries that the Central Kings coaching staff is looking forward to facing in the upcoming season.

“I like them all and have a great time playing them,” expressed the Gators head coach. “I love our league, it is competitive but also fun and enjoyable for our players. I would say that our league is the most competitive. We are excited to renew our rivalry again this year with NEKEC and I look forward to playing 2nd year team Milwood.”

There is optimism for Central Kings when looking ahead and getting ready for the 2016 season. With a group of players that truly possesses chemistry and a shared dedication to a mission, coach Priestnall knows what the major strength of the Gators is going forward, and understands which lessons from 2015 can be applied to the upcoming season.

“United,” said the Gators head coach when describing his team. “They play as one, they play as a team. We need to keep positive and focus on what we do well, and not dwell on what we do bad. Also, as a coaching staff, keep positive and always have FUN.”



2015 RECORD: 6-2

2015 #CFC50 RANKING: N/A

HEAD COACH: Larry Priestnall

ASSISTANT COACHES:  Dave Ross (Offensive Coordinator, Quarterbacks, Wide Receivers), David Marriage (Defensive Coordinator, D-Line), Dave McDowell (Defensive Coordinator, Defensive Backs), Wally Archer (Linebackers), Matthew Priestnall (Running Backs), Scott Holifield (O-Line)

KEY RETURNEES: Connor Ross (quarterback/linebacker), Nick Clark (wide receiver), Geoff Mullin (wide Receiver), Eric Hollifield (wide receiver), Eric Visser (wide receiver), Colton Balsor (running back), Darien McBride

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