Sports

Chilliwack Huskers need a team effort

The 2014 Valley Huskers line-up was announced last Saturday at a meet and greet by Exhibition Park field after practice.  - Greg Laychak
The 2014 Valley Huskers line-up was announced last Saturday at a meet and greet by Exhibition Park field after practice.
— image credit: Greg Laychak

Hot midday sun cooked the artificial turf at Exhibition Park Saturday, as Valley Huskers special teams players lined up to practise kick-off.

The ball sailed high and deep, was caught for a short return and then players moved back to their positions to repeat the play.

On July 26 at 7 p.m. when the football is launched from its tee at the same field, it will be the first chance the 2014 Huskers will have to prove their coaching changes and new line-up are ready to take the team on a winning path.

“My goal is the playoffs this year,” said Moe Agagnier, general manager of the team.

It might sound like wishful thinking to anyone who has followed the team since their winless seasons in 2010 and 2011.

But Agagnier, who moved to the full-time leadership position this year, said he has a vision for the team, and a desire to see the kids excel.

“To strive to make the playoffs you have to get the players to believe you,” he said.

The last few years the players themselves have had a lot of doubt, said Agagnier. There was no vision for the team in the past, “it was just, ‘Let’s hope we have a team,’ and I don’t want to hope we have a team.”

“Then when things went bad, they accepted it and just said, ‘Here we go again,’ and that’s not going to happen this year. I guarantee you.”

His players seemed to be on board with Agagnier’s philosophy.

“I see a good group of guys coming in right now,” said third-year player, Cody Vinish.

The slotback added that if the group meshes well, they should be an impressive team.

It was last season that Vinish earned a starting spot and had his breakout year at slotback.

Moving forward, he wants to put his prior experience on the team to good use.

“I’ve got to make sure the rookies coming in know what we’re doing—make sure they’re running their routes right, catching the balls, getting in their playbook.”

That kind of involvement and bonding is crucial for a cohesive team, said GM Agagnier.

“The last few years it was pockets of four or five guys together. This year the whole team, right from spring camp, has jumped on board and said, ‘Yes, we’re a whole team.’”

After a small crowd at the meet and greet trickled out of the stands, about 20 of the players left to spend the rest of the sweltering day soaking in river water together.

“That’s beautiful stuff,” said Agagnier. “Team bonding is great stuff.”

And the team gelling off the field improves the on-field cohesion of the Valley Huskers.

“Coach Adam [Smith] is bringing a new view of optimism on offence for the first time in a long time. We’ve been toying with offence, but he has a true concept of what’s needed on the field.”

But it all comes down to these players who, Agagnier said, are ready to “fight tooth and nail” for a playoff spot.

• The Valley Huskers play their season opener at Exhibition Park, July 26 at 7 p.m. They face the Okanagan Sun, a team the Huskers have only beaten by way of forfeit since 2006.

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