Southern Alberta Minor Football Association play kicks off across the region Saturday, as the Rebels head to Medicine Hat to take on the Hawks.
The 2013 campaign will be a bit of an unknown for the Rebels, according to head coach Garrett Simmons, as the team has struggled to recruit players so far.
“We have topped out at just over 20 players,” said Simmons.
“It’s an odd set of circumstances, with kids who have moved away, suffered non-football-related injuries and some who have just lost interest in the sport, I guess. I’ve never had under 30 kids on any of my teams before, so this is uncharted territory.”
As such, Taber’s seven-game, regular-season schedule will test the depth of a Rebels team the coach said is thin in one key area.
“We don’t have a lot of size. We only have a few back-ups who can play offensive or defensive line, so we’re really hoping the few big guys we have can stay healthy all season.”
The Rebels do possess a good mix of players at the skill positions, according to Simmons, led by quarterbacks Brad Marsden and Tate Platt, and a quartet of running backs.
“It’s probably the best group of running backs I’ve ever had. The challenge will be opening up the holes up front for them. We’re going to count on our offensive line to get the job done and be the engine that makes this team run.”
Those four running backs will also be relied upon heavily on defence, mainly at the linebacker positions, to supply the Rebels with a solid presence on that side of the ball.
“We have the talent at those positions, but we just don’t have the depth to sustain any injuries,” said Simmons, who added with the start of school, the hope is a few more faces will show up at practice this week.
“We could definitely use a few more bigger kids, and a few more players in general. It’s pretty tough to run a bantam team with your numbers in the low 20s.”
The Rebels kicked off the season with an informal exhibition scrimmage last Thursday night in Lethbridge against the Coyotes, where the starters for the Rebels saw limited action. With the first-team units on the field for much of the first half, the teams battled to a 6-6 draw, before the city squad added a couple of second-half scores, aided by a lack of officials on the field.
“Those two scores in the second half were a direct result of a massive block in back on one and a huge hold on our cornerback on the second,” said Simmons. “But, it was just a scrimmage, and every kid had a chance to see the field and see what they could do.”
Lethbridge scored a kickoff-return touchdown in the first half, right after the Rebels struck first on a 109-yards scoring drive.
“The Coyotes took the ball all the way down the field and our defence held them at our one-yard line,” said Simmons.
“We ran a quick QB sneak for five yards to get us out of the shadow of our own goal line. We ran the play again and Marsden caught the defence cheating inside and busted it around the corner for one of the longest touchdown runs I’ve ever witnessed.”
With another week of practice this week, Simmons added hopes are the team will put in a solid performance in the regular-season opener Saturday in the Gas City.
“We know we have a small team size and numbers wise, but the kids that are here are dedicated, passionate about football and we’re ready to go. You can’t do anything about all the kids who have decided to pack it in. Football is a tough sport and it’s not for everyone, but as coaches, we’re going to do everything in our power to help those kids that do have the heart and desire to play to be as successful as they can be.”
The coach added the team will be taking new players this week only. Those interested can contact Taber Minor Football registrar Mandy Simmons at 403-382-5237 or Garrett Simmons at 403-382-0681.