TRURO - Early season football at home is always a fun time of the year for the Cobequid Cougars.
The opportunity to play in front of family and friends for a program that is rich in football history is an experience that's cherished by all players. Add the fact that after four weeks of training camp players are champing at the bit for game action and one can understand why opening week is special.
But on Sunday, the pomp and circumstance surrounding the gridiron at Nova Scotia's largest high school will be magnified to the nth degree.
Not only will the Cougars unveil this year's roster of players who will wear the orange and white, but they will do it at a refurbished stadium when they host the Sackville Kingfishers at 1 p.m.
"We're getting a lot more attention now with everything built up like this, so I'm really excited and I just want to put on a show and play good," said senior quarterback Gabriel Bagnell.
"It's just inspiring because we're such a small community and us doing a big thing like this, that's pretty amazing."
The $250,000 transformation of CEC Field to the new James Macpherson Stadium over the past 18 months has included many noticeable exterior upgrades, including bleachers to seat 1,000, a new scoreboard and press box. Inside, the addition of the Rick Kaupp memorial locker room, Jamie Shephard memorial players' lounge, two meeting rooms and an academic centre adds to the allure of big-time football in a small town.
"It's going to be a real high school American-like environment and we're excited with everything we're doing and putting on - it's going to be a great show," promised Cougars head coach Scott Annand.
"Just to be on that field and look up at the banners that the school has won, the provincial championships that are on display, and to see James Macpherson's name there and to know what he meant to high school football and athletics at CEC and beyond, that's what it's all about - to motivate these kids and make them realize they're part of something special."
The Cougars enter the new season with a young roster that features many Grade 10 players. Annand, however, said he is pleased with leadership shown from veteran players and is optimistic his team will compete for a provincial Tier 1 provincial title.
"I really strongly believe that we have just as great an opportunity to win the provincial championship as at least two or three other teams in our conference," Annand said. "And that has a lot to do with the minor football program feeding us kids, and it's also the confidence I have in my coaching staff ... and these kids I know they're going to be different five, six, seven, eight weeks down the road. I truly believe that we are contenders and we talk about that and we build on that every day."
The Cougars played one preseason game last week and were beaten handily by C.P. Allen. Annand said he doesn't put much stock in that contest, and feels his team will be prepared on Sunday when it counts most.
"We saw some good things, we saw some bad things, but it was just that - a typical preseason game," he said.
"We are a very young team, but we're going in the right direction, and that's what's so encouraging. We're coming together as a team, we're working on the discipline, the mental aspects of it and I think the kids are really starting to see what it means to play CEC football."
Team: CEC Cougars
League: Nova Scotia School Athletic Federation Football League - Nova Division (Tier 1).
Other teams: Citadel, Sir. John A Macdonald, C.P. Allen, Dartmouth, Lockview, Prince Andrew, Sackville.
Season opener: Sunday, Sept. 16 vs. Sackville Kingfishers at James Macpherson Stadium, 1 p.m.
Admission: $5 for adults, $2 for students. Adult season pass (four games) - $15. Truro Minor Football players who wear their jersey to the game will receive free admission.
About James Macpherson
- First football team: Truro Peewee Bluebombers.
- Won provincial football championships with the Bluebombers and Truro Bantam Freightliners.
- Helped the CEC Cougars achieve Nova Scotia high school titles in 1989 and 1990.
- Was a running back for Saint Mary's University under coach Larry Uteck from 1992 to 1996.
- Named an Atlantic conference all-star for three straight years (1994-96).
- Named male athlete of the year at Saint Mary's in 1996.
- Was also a basketball player and track athlete.
- Macpherson died in a plane crash on July 19, 2000 at age 27.