Rams kick off new season

Mount Douglas hosts Vancouver College Friday as the Rams begin their quest to defend their B.C. high school title

Grade 9 player Roman Dujela of the Mount Douglas Rams hits the sled during practice ahead of the 2016 season. The junior and senior Rams open the 2016 season at home on Friday versus Vancouver College.

Grade 9 player Roman Dujela of the Mount Douglas Rams hits the sled during practice ahead of the 2016 season. The junior and senior Rams open the 2016 season at home on Friday versus Vancouver College.

At the start of another year, it’s another question of expectations for the Mount Douglas Rams football team.

If there’s one thing the defending champs proved last season, it doesn’t matter how many stars they graduate to the CIS, they are not to be written off as rebuilding. Last year the Rams emerged to win their fourth AAA Subway Bowl title in five years. Throw in the 2010 AA senior championship and two junior championships in the same time span, and it’s been a heck of a run.

The junior Rams and defending provincial champion senior Rams start the 2016 season at home Friday against the visiting Vancouver College Fighting Irish, a pair of afternoon games at noon and 3 p.m. For the seniors, it’s a rematch of the 2015 Subway Bowl final, which the Rams won 34-17.

Among the returning senior team players are quarterback Gideon Kremler, who carries the rare distinction of winning a B.C. High School Football senior championship as a Grade 9 athlete.

That Kremler earned the senior Rams’ starting role at just 14 years of age was a surprise to everyone including himself, he said.

“Last year it was a bit of a shock to be starting but this year I’m more confident in my surroundings,” he said.

Kremler settled in quick last year and routinely supplied the ball to the Rams’ offensive all stars such as Gavin Cobb, B.C.’s 2015 AAA Player of the Year, and standouts Declann Michelin and Oliver McKenzie. In less than a year, Kremler went from being the team’s former water boy to becoming the senior team’s starting quarterback, and is now looked at as an experienced leader coming off the Subway Bowl championship.

As to how the Rams will find their motivation, the answer is simple, Kremler said.

“The bar is set high here but we are always wanting to be better than the year before, as an athlete and as a person.”

In three preseason games a new core of stars have stepped up for the Rams.

Last week the club travelled to Washington state to face Vashon Island, winning 49-12. It was the club’s third preseason win.

Kremler threw for 266 yards and four touchdowns, including a 26-yard touchdown pass to his twin brother Zairech. Kremler also led the team in rushing with 134 yards and a touchdown. Olti Shala ran for another 58 yards and a touchdown. Receiver Sebastian Hansen caught six passes and one touchdown, and Hayden Naylor made two receptions, both for touchdowns.

It doesn’t get any more family friendly than Kremler throwing to Kremler, but the family connections continue.

Since Gideon and Zairech can remember, they’ve thrown the ball around with big brother and 2015 Rams’ grad Justice (SFU), and their cousins, a pair of brothers who are also current Rams, Josh (Grade 12) and Joe (Grade 9) Lucas.

Josh, a senior team receiver and safety, is one of many names who are ready to step out of the shadow this season. Gideon and Josh have already connected multiple times, with Josh potting two touchdown passes in the 40-0 preseason win over Veronia, Ore., and another in the 35-18 preseason win over the John Barsby Bulldogs.

“Gideon has improved even more over the offseason. He’s been grinding in the gym, on and off the field, he’ll be even better,” Josh said. “The Oregon win was good for confidence but there’s things [as a team] we can clean up.”

Among the many names who are ready to shine for the Rams are Quinn Jenish, Nik Shuck and Olti Shala.Early seedings have the Rams listed as a contender, but not as a runaway favourite. And that’s just fine for program director and head coach Mark Townsend, who has successfully found ways to deal with the team’s high expectations.

“Flying under the radar is not necessarily a bad thing,” Townsend said. “One ranking has us in the top five, which is fine, we know we haven’t earned anything yet. It give the kids a chance to prove the critics wrong.”