Mike DeMello shows Kyle Van Genne the basics of how to grip a football during a preseason workout at Chapman Field. DeMello and the Bombers host the Moncton Raiders in Atlantic Football League action Friday night at Chapman Field. Kickoff time is 8 p.m.

Bombers to build around local talent
Atlantic Football League: Host Moncton Friday night at Chapman Field

By Robert Touchie
Published in the Daily Gleaner on Thursday October 15, 2009
Appeared on Page B2

The UNB Fredericton Red Bombers' maiden voyage in the Atlantic Football League three weeks ago came with plenty of excitement and fireworks, but in the end, did not end with the landing they had hoped for.

The Bombers came away on the short end of a 16-14 loss to the UNBSJ Seawolves but their coaches and players hope to change the flight plan when they welcome the Moncton Raiders Friday night at Chapman Field. Kickoff time is 8 p.m.

The teams enter the game with matching 0-1 records, both having suffered losses at the hands of the Seawolves. But co-coach Mike DeMello thinks that not much can be read into the standings at this early juncture of the season.

"It's really hard to say that anyone is standing out in the league after just two weeks of play, but the scores we've seen so far would lead one to believe that the league will have parity," said DeMello, referring to the Seawolves' win over UNB and their 28-23 win over Moncton.

"We've made a few changes to our O-Line since our last game and we hope it will help us run the ball better. But really, at this stage we know almost nothing about the Moncton team. We've been too busy working on our own team."

DeMello is an advocate of the old school offensive mentality: 'five yards and a cloud of dust' and thinks that although he has an able quarterback, there needs to be a better balance between the run and the pass.

"You don't win many tough playoff football games, in the cold, without a solid run game and a good defence," said DeMello.

"Brandon Cornford is a really talented quarterback and he played well in the first game, but we need to help him out with a better ground game and hope that Tyler Doak and our defence continue to perform well."

Beyond Cornford and Doak, DeMello didn't feel he had seen enough of any of his players in a game situation to single out anyone individually, but knows what kind of player he is looking for to return UNB football to gridiron glory - and where he'll find them.

"Cornford (Leo Hayes High) and Doak (OHS) are local talents," said DeMello. "We realize that for this program to be successful one need only look at the talent that has come out of the Capital Area the last decade to see that CIS stars are found right here in our backyard."

DeMello listed names of local players who have excelled and starred at the CIS level, including Dave Knott and Jamie Edwards, who are part of the Bombers' coaching staff, and the likes of of Dave Skillen, Dan McCullough, and the three Thomas brothers, Josh, Billy and now Jake.

But for DeMello, one player in particular stands out: Oromocto product Billy Wilson, who played NCAA Division 1 at Syracuse before injuries curtailed his career.

"He had it all"¦size, heart, brains, speed, toughness, real coachable," said DeMello. "That's what we want..guys with the head and the heart That's what makes a great football player. We know we have a lot of them here in the Capital Area. We always have and we always will."

"I look at this team now and I see that fire in some of the guys"¦Cornford, Doak, Hubbard - great character guys who love to play. It helps us with the chemistry on our team to have those guys, and with a short season we'll need to come together quick and that type of player gets us there quickly."

Doak, says DeMello, is a force.

"Tyler's a guy who is very physical and tough, but also very intelligent and with great character," said DeMello. "He's aggressive, intuitive and has a great attitude, and I love his swagger on the field. He plays tough, plays with attitude and we really depend on him to lead our defence."

Doak, a 21-year-old second year Arts student who transferred from MtA after redshirting his first year for the Mounties, is a guy according to DeMello whose skill and attitude personify what the team is looking for and the driving reason why the team was put together - a local kid wanting to play after high school.

"The MtA experience was great, I learned a lot, but this thing we have going on here at UNB, it's amazing"¦.the crowd that first game, I don't think I have ever experienced anything like that in football in my life, it really was incredible," said Doak, a five-foot-10 inch, 235 pound defensive tackle.

"With time we'll become a CIS program, and it is just a great opportunity for all of us. I'll be a Bomber as long as I am eligible to be here, I am totally loving it.

"Our coaching staff is amazing, our front seven kills and I really think we will win this league this year and set the tone for UNB football for years to come."

How about Moncton this Friday?

"The first game was the first game," said Doak. "(There were) a lot of kinks and Saint John was together longer," said Doak. "We have the skill on this team to rip this league apart and we're just starting to get together as a Brotherhood"¦and that is where it all begins.

"We don't know much about Moncton, but from what I have seen of them on film, they have a big O-Line but they are not overly aggressive and they're a little slow off the ball. Their defence is good but I think that with the chemistry between Cornford and (Andrew) Hubbard, we can overcome that."

DeMello is optimistic but cautious.

"It'll take a quarter or more for both teams to get their legs under them," he said.

"But I'm looking forward to this game and the season, because we've got guys on this team who make it fun to get together; great characters and they're local guys. It's that local talent we're banking on to build this program into a viable varsity sport on campus."