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Mustangs to beef up on offence
By Jordan Bell
Hold the line.
For the Western Mustangs football team, this statement will be all too familiar in the early part of the 2001 season.
"I definitely think our offensive line needs to step up," said offensive lineman and team captain Mike Chuk. "With the younger quarterbacks, we're going to have to look to run the football more in the early part of the season."
Chuk headlines an extremely strong and talented crop of linemen. All five starting linemen from last year return to the squad (Philippe Beaudry, Nick Shields, Adam Rumball, Martin Dionne, and Chuk), to go along with a stellar freshman class including Nicolas Tansley and Justin Zamperin.
The Mustangs are coming off a 6-3 campaign last year. With the heart-and-soul of the offense (quarterback Michael O'Brien and fullback Fabian Rayne) lost to greener pastures in the Canadian Football League. Head coach and offensive coordinator Larry Haylor admitted the team would need a more balanced approach.
"It will be more of a team concept this year," Haylor said. "We're going to try and unload the quarterback situation and let whoever's playing there gain a little experience."
Shouldering most of the added offense will be running back Drew Soleyn, who broke out last year and will continue to bust up the flailing opposition. Backing up Soleyn will be London Catholic Central Secondary School speedster Marty Robertson.
Fortunately, the Mustangs also have a stacked receiving corps returning top-gun James Prescott, Preston Haynes, and athletic dynamo Christian Heffernan.
Heffernan, a former draft pick of the Atlanta Braves, has posed quite the problem, although a positive one, for the Mustang staff. "He is so athletic and talented," Haylor said. "We're just trying to find the most advantageous spot for him and right now it's slotback."
Defensive coordinator Bob LaRose has been pleasantly surprised with the troops guarding the goal. With the loss of some quality players including defensive lineman Andy Dobaczewski and Chris Surmacz, linebacker Mark Chortos and defensive back Jamie Ewart, the outlook could seem bleak.
LaRose is confident his line can weather the storm.
"The preparation of the veterans and the rookies from last year, will strongly influence our success," LaRose said. "And with the talent of our freshman, we will continue to play the aggressive, intelligent defense we always have."
Spearheading this defense will be lineman Graig Richter, linebackers Darryl Fabiani, John Hammoud and rookie Tom Norris and backs Alexis Sanschagrin and Kris Aiken.
The Mustangs have always been a dominant and despised opponent in the university football annals. But lately, their success has curtailed. Haylor foresees a turning point this year, which will propel them back to the top of the football food chain.
"Recently our success has plateaued and we have been unable to get better," Haylor said. "But with this years athleticism, we can definitely rise above the plateau."
As Chuk admired the vast expanse of green lying in front of him on the TD Waterhouse field, he was quick to point out, as only a leader of men can do, a sentiment shared by many.
"We definitely have the potential to be the best team in the country. But if we don't realize that as a team and don't do what's necessary to achieve that goal, it means nothing," Chuk said.