Rebels head coach Charly Cardilicchia speaks to the players following an on-field session during last weekend’s spring camp at Westhills Stadium. Joel Tansey/News Gazette staff

Defending B.C. champs Westshore Rebels optimistic as spring camp opens

Despite star players moving on conference champs look to build on last year’s momentum

Some of last year’s key contributors may have moved on, but there was still a lot of optimism around the defending B.C. Football Conference champion Westshore Rebels’ spring camp this weekend at Westhills Stadium.

Gone are head coach JC Boice, running backs Jamel Lyles and Trey Campbell, and quarterback Ashton MacKinnon. But rookie head coach Charly Cardilicchia and defensive coach Shane Beatty, both returnees from last year’s staff, were keen to talk about the players expected back for another run at the Canadian Bowl championship.

“I’m really excited. I think we’ve got some really good talent out here,” Cardilicchia said. “The truth is that we’re still a little light and we’ve got some work to do, but I think we’ve got the nucleus of something really special.”

While the 2016 Rebels’ offence relied heavily on the rushing exploits of Lyles, Campbell and even MacKinnon, Cardilicchia wouldn’t commit to his club being a run-heavy team this season.

“It’ll be balanced. I’ll go as we go. If we have certain games where we’re running the ball really well, we’ll run the ball. If we have certain games where we’re going to throw the ball, that’ll depend on the opponent that we’re playing and how we want to approach them,” he said.

Newcomers to the mix on the line will be six-foot-three, 230-pound offensive tackle Tyrese Hogue, a Mt. Douglas secondary grad.

Hogue worked out with the Rebels last year and has been coached by Cardilicchia in the Greater Victoria Minor Football Association for most of his football life. Hogue also credited returning centre Christian Krause, last year’s BCFC offensive lineman of the year, with bringing him along.

“I’ve been drawn to this team for a while. The movement they’ve got going on right now is awesome,” Hogue said. “And junior football’s a good move for me coming out of high school, because I’m a little undersized, so it’ll give me time to bulk up and get bigger.”

Beatty’s defense will benefit from the return of linemen Kent Hicks, Jeremie Drouin and Byron MacKinnon.

“There’s lots of speed in the secondary and we’re very big up front on the defensive line and linebackers … we’re really fast and athletic,” Beatty said.

If the Rebels had a weakness last year, it was the secondary’s susceptibility to the big play, but the unit improved dramatically throughout the course of the season and Beatty expects they can build on that momentum. “We’ll be much better this year in the secondary. We’re more athletic, we’re faster and we’ve got some really good young kids in here.”

The Rebels kick off the 2017 season on July 29 in Kelowna against the Okanagan Sun in a rematch of last year’s Cullen Cup, which ended in a 32-21 Westshore win.

Their first home game isn’t until the fourth week of the season, when the Langley Rams visit Westhills Stadium on Aug. 19.

joel.tansey@goldstreamgazette.com

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