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This fall will mark a new chapter for the Ernest Manning Griffins of the Calgary Senior High School Athletic Association (CSHSAA).  The Griffins will make the move to Division 1.

While this will be a new adjustment, the Griffins are still committed to achieving their gridiron goals.

“It will mark the first appearance for our school in that top division, which has proven to be the best division in Alberta,” commented Griffins Head Coach Jovan Vujinovic.  “We expect this to be a year where we compete with the best teams, understanding that we are young and focused on improving each week.”

Speed, athleticism and football IQ will be the strengths that the Griffins will rely upon in 2014.

“This is our fastest and most athletic team we have ever fielded in the four years I have been at Ernest Manning High School,” added Vujinovic.  “Our speed will prove to be problematic for some teams as we can match up across the board.”

“This group also represents the most experienced group of football players we have seen in terms of the number of bantam, and midget football players we are seeing in our program from the Calgary Wildcats and Calgary Falcons.”

Offensively, the Griffins will be led by several players including running back Gavin Smith, quarterback Aidan Saunders and receiver Eliot Zacher.

“On the offensive side of the ball we will look to senior running back and returning starter from last years undefeated team, Gavin Smith to carry the load supported by the dynamic Aidan Saunders at quarterback;. Aidan represents a player who can run and throw, if our spring camp was any indication of how quickly he picks up the offence he will be a star this year,” assessed Vujinovic.  “Yunus Raiman and Keaton Dubrule will anchor the offensive line which is loaded with a motivated group of grade 11’s.”

“These two young players were stars on our junior team last year and have put in a lot of time in the weight room this offseason. We have surrounded these guys with playmakers like July Soe, Ty Irwin and Elliot Zacher who can all stretch the field.”

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In particular, Zacher could enjoy a breakout season for the Griffins.

“He is a grade 12 receiver could turn heads in Division 1 and prove to be one of the league’s top receivers, if he can stay healthy,” explained Vujinovic.  “One of our strongest and fastest players Elliot can cause mismatch nightmares for opposing teams due to his sheer size and athleticism.”

The Griffins offense will be swift on the field and have a helping hand in improvement on that area of their style of play.

“On offence, we will utilize our team speed as we have partnered with Noel Mazzone as one of his NZone clients,” added Vijinovic.

As for the Griffins defense, defensive lineman Cole Henry as well as defensive backs Eric Gafos and Connor Dawe will anchor the tough unit.

“The defensive side of the ball will be a strength again as last year’s top defence in Calgary’s Division 2 looks to only get better,” said Vujinovic.  “We look to seniors Cole Henry and Charlie Crick to solidify the defensive line and they will be joined by Alex Feduchyn (Summer Games Team).”

“At the linebacker position we have two starters return in Nick Taylor (CSHAA All-Star) and Nathan Becker. The linebackers will be bolstered by the addition of Kirk Olson (2013 Team Alberta Bantam Bowl, CBFA Selects Team) and William Kuyhoven (2014 Summer Games, CBFA Selects Team). Our secondary looks to be as strong as it was last year. Eric Gafos and Conor Dawe will lead the group as seniors and will be pushed hard by Patrick Buck (2013 Team Alberta Bantam Bowl) and Dilyaad Bahia (2013 Team Alberta Bantam Bowl & CBFA Selects Team).”

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Bahia could prove to be the explosive threat on the Griffins as he proved how dangerous he was during last year’s Calgary Area Midget Football Association (CAMFA) Championship Game.

“Dilyaad is our most dynamic player who has proven that he can lock down one of the top players in the country in 2013 during the Midget Championship game he was able to neutralize Notre Dame’s Colton Hunchak when split out at receiver.”

“Dilyaad will line up at defensive back as well as receiver where his speed and vision will make him a threat to score every time he touches the ball.”

Each week, the Griffins defense will be unleashed on the field and will be relentless against opponents.

“On defence, look for us to turn our playmakers loose with a fundamentally solid approach to the game,” described the Griffins Head Coach.  “We rely heavily on our preparation each week to put our players in the best possible position to be successful.”

However, the Griffins will have to address the losses of players on both units including receiver Jags Bahia, receiver Joel Johnson, quarterback Jackson Bokenofor, receiver Ryan Short, offensive lineman Matteo Williams, defensive lineman Chris German, offensive lineman Derek Leo, linebacker Zak Nemiri linebacker Adam Chen, defensive back TJ Cairns, defensive back Abtin Motamedi), receiver Jamie Langton and running back/defensive back Memmdy Ventos.

“Even though we have more bantam and midget players than we ever have had before the team itself is young,” commented Vujinovic of the losses and how the team will fill the void.  “We graduated a special class last year and have a small number of Grade 12’s this year that are supported with an electrifying group of grade 11’s and an incoming class of Grade 10’s.”

“Due to our youth we are not as big as we were last year. Our offensive line has gone from a group of 300 pounders to a group of 220 pounders. The interesting thing is they are more athletic than and equally as strong as last year’s class. This should make for an exciting season this year but even more so next year. We have addressed this issue by spending the off season training at WIN Sports High Performance Center with National and Olympic level coaches in a one of a king World class training facility. We also have two extra games scheduled this year into our regular season. We had a year like this in Year 2 of our program where we were young and I think as a program we have learned a lot from that.”

Moving up to Division 1 means the Griffins will face some stiff competition from other teams.  However, the Griffins are taking it in stride as a positive experience.

“This is the hardest division in the city,” said Vujinovic.  “We could easily play in Division 2 again and probably go undefeated again there is no question.”

“Moving up was the only thing to do. Unlike last year, there will be no gimmie games where we can mail it in after the first quarter. Looking at our conference, Notre Dame is still the team to beat they are nationally ranked and have not lost a game in over two seasons.  I think teams are either taking us lightly as the new kids in town or they are concerned that we might surprise them. With the quality of coaches in this division, I am not sure anyone is getting surprised!”

Overall, Vujinovic likes the Griffins chances.

“I have coached for 10 plus years and have seen plenty of talented teams but none with this much speed and athleticism,” expressed the Griffins Head Coach.

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2013 RECORD: 7-0, lost in Calgary Division 2 Championships

HEAD COACH: Jovan Vujinovic (14 season as Head Coach)



KEY RETURNEES: Cole Henry (defensive line), Gavin Smith (running back), Aidan Saunders (quarterback), Elliot Zacher (receiver), Eric Gafos (defensive back), Connor Dawe (defensive back)

KEY LOSSES: Jags Bahia (receiver – Alberta Golden Bears), Joel Johnson (receiver – Alberta Golden Bears), Jackson Bokenofor (quarterback – St. FX X-Men), Ryan Short (receiver), Matteo Williams (offensive line), Chris German (defensive line), Derek Leo (offensive line), Zak Nemiri (linebacker), Adam Chen (linebacker), TJ Cairns (defensive back – Mount Allison Mounties), Abtin Motamedi (defensive back – ST.FX X-Men), Jamie Langton (receiver), Memmdy Ventos (running back/defensive back)




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