The Cougars host the Sir John A Macdonald Flames in their opening game on Sunday at James Macpherson Stadium. Opening kickoff is set for 1 p.m.
“We’re going up against a real juggernaut,” said Cougars head coach Brent MacPhee. “Sir John A, no matter how we play them, they’re going be tough as heck, but we’re definitely putting our best foot forward against these guys. We’d love to give them a good go. We haven’t had them at home in a couple of years and we like it at home.”
The Flames defeated the Cougars in a lopsided semifinal in 2016, before falling to the Citadel Phoenix in a close championship game.
The Cougars have key holes to fill after graduating four all-stars last season, including quarterback Dustin Pettigrew, who was also the league’s MVP on offence. Other graduating all-stars were defensive players Seamus Meagher, Emmitt Fitzgerald and Tyler Ball.
Mike Adams, Grade 11, will handle quarterback and kicking duties for CEC this season. Adams enjoyed great success at the minor level as a starting QB, most recently in 2015 when he led the Truro Freightliners to a provincial bantam title.
Cobequid enters the new season with about a dozen Grade 12 athletes, who will be called upon to lead the charge. Many will be asked to play on both sides of the ball, including senior Riley Gabriel, who is expected to see duty as a receiver, defensive back and on special teams as a punt returner.
“We basically are going to play him as much as his fitness will allow,” said MacPhee. “And the good news is, his fitness is excellent.”
Gabriel and fellow Cougar Kamryn Matheson played in the Football Canada Cup in July in Wolfville and both were selected to represent Canada at the 2018 International Bowl in Texas in January.
Matheson, a Grade 11 running back/rover, was the NSSAFFL rookie of the year in 2016 and will also be called upon to play a pivotal role.
The Cougars have been on the field for three weeks, but haven’t played any pre-season games. And while MacPhee is optimistic about the new season, he admits it’s too early to tell how his squad stacks up.
“We’ve had setbacks and we’re missing a few positions where we could be better, but then we have some where we’re as good as we’ve ever been, so honestly, I don’t know. We’re going to be fine, I just don’t know if we’re going to be world beaters yet.”
Middle linebacker Dylan Benoit has been named captain of the Cougars.
Following Sunday’s opener, the Cougars visit Cole Harbour on Sept.18 for a game that will be televised on Eastlink.