The Langley Rams enter their B.C. Football Conference campaign with a newly promoted head coach, and oodles of optimism.
Khari Joseph has grabbed the head coaching reins, taking over from Jeff Alamolhoda, and he’s a very familiar face in Rams’ circles.
Joseph joined the Rams coaching staff in 2012 and has been their defensive coordinator ever since, putting together a Cullen Cup-winning defensive unit that was considered by many as the best in the nation.
He’ll be on double duty this year, serving as the junior team’s head coach as well as its defensive coordinator.
The Rams ended their 2015 season on a somewhat sour note, dropping a 28-27 decision to the Vancouver Island (VI) Raiders in the B.C. Football Conference semifinal match-up in Nanaimo.
The loss dashed Rams’ hopes of making a fifth consecutive Cullen Cup showing, meaning the first time since 2010, they weren’t able to vie for the BCFC title.
With the 2015 campaign in the rearview, Joseph said last season’s rookies should be able to take another positive step in their respective football careers.
And he was happy with what he saw during the first two days of training camp at McLeod Stadium two weekends ago.
“It’s shaping up really well,” he told the Advance July 9. “The first two days [of camp] have been really good, the intensity level was up, the tempo was up, guys have bought into what we’re trying to do this year in terms of our philosophy and playing Rams football.”
The bench boss has a lot to work with, as more than 40 players are returning to the fold from last season.
“There’s not a lot of turnover so that’s always good for a coach, especially in junior when you have guys going to the next level or going to university. Last year was our big recruiting year, so it’s nice that this year we don’t have tons of turnover. That’s good for the team.”
Joseph said the Rams sophomores can give pointers to the “young guys who are coming in and show them the lay of the land.”
The bench boss added that he doesn’t set goals, other than to get better every day. “I feel that if everybody is working on getting better every day, the winning will take care of itself.”
Among the key players back for another year are Chea Faickney on the offensive line, along with linebacker John Beckerleg and running back Nathan Lund who both practised with the Lions this year.
They’re among the vets who’ll need to play leadership roles this year.
“We lost a lot of leaders this year,” Joseph said. “So we’re going to need those players to step up and take on those roles. I’ve challenged them. It’s their team now. They’re not the rookies on the block anymore. Now it’s their time to take those young guys and show them the way and let them understand what Ram football really is.”
For those who have never experienced a junior football game at McLeod Stadium, Joseph said they’re in for a treat.
“It’s going to be a good atmosphere, it’s really good football, high level football, this is a beautiful venue to watch the game, we have the Jumbotron, and there’s guys every year going on to the next level, so the level of talent has risen the last couple of years,” Joseph said.
It’s nice to see Lund back – he was named as a BCFC all-star in 2015, carrying the ball 74 times for 621 yards, for an impressive average of 8.4 yards per touch, with five touchdowns.
Beckerleg is equally effective. He was a BCFC all-star defensive back last year with 16 tackles, three assists, five interceptions, and one touchdown. Beckerleg was also named the conference’s Outstanding Return Specialist.
Joseph said due to turnover, there are a lot of unknowns in terms of what the other six teams in the BCFC will bring to the field. He can only go from last year and with that in mind, knows defending conference champs Okanagan (who went undefeated the regular season and both of their playoff games last season, before falling to the Saskatoon Hilltops in the 108th Canadian Bowl) and Westshore are the two teams to beat this year.
The Rams players are entering the season with confidence.
Faickney believes the Rams have a shot at competing for a B.C. championship.
“I think we have what it takes,” he said. “Everybody’s got that family mentality which is awesome.”
Defensive lineman Adam Marchetti echoed his teammate’s sentiments, saying he’s excited about the team’s overall speed, talent, and intensity.
“I’d like to have a positive season, and I’d like to go all the way this year,” the 21-year-old product of the Cowichan Bulldogs said. “We have a younger team, but I believe that with a younger team, we can build a lot of new tendencies, and just create the best team we can make.”
The Rams’ first two games of the season are on the road, versus Westshore on Sunday and in Chilliwack July 30.
Their home opener is Saturday, Aug. 6 when they host the Kamloops Broncos. Kickoff at McLeod Stadium is 7 p.m.
For more on the Rams, visit langleyrams.com.