Windsor AKO owner has much respect for Hilltops
Mike Morencie doesn’t mince words, only expectations.
Morencie, who is the otherwise jovial team owner and defensive co-ordinator for the Windsor AKO Fratmen, sounds practically convinced that his team doesn’t have a chance heading into Saturday’s Canadian Bowl against the reigning three-time champion Saskatoon Hilltops.
“As a coaching staff, and this isn’t coach-speak, we’re looking at them and saying, ‘We can’t win against these guys,’ ” the veteran football coach admitted Thursday.
“We’re going to try but, if we have any success, we’re going to be very fortunate. This (Hilltops) defensive front, to me, is lights out.”
Morencie is doing his best to shine a light on Saturday’s Canadian Bowl matchup. He knows what lies ahead. He was head coach of the Fratmen in the 1980s and 1990s.
“All the kids are excited as hell, but they have no idea what they’ve gotten themselves into — but that’s OK, too,” he said, laughing out loud.
“I’ve been calling them (Hilltops) the New England Patriots of the CJFL. We’re going to have to play very, very well.”
While both teams are steeped in junior football tradition, the Hilltops are currently a juggernaut with 10 national titles under Tom Sargeant and six in the last seven years.
Windsor last won the Canadian title in 1999 over the Okanagan Sun.
This year, AKO finished first in the CJFL’s Ontario Football Conference with a 7-1-0 record followed by two straight wins in the OFC playoffs. Its only blemish was a season-opening 30-7 loss to the Prairie Football Conference’s Edmonton Huskies.
Windsor racked up 433 yards in offence that game but couldn’t convert them into points. Edmonton totalled 397.
“We’re pretty disappointed with the way we played,” admits Morencie. “If you look at the yardage, you would have thought we won the game. We had five trips to the red zone in the first quarter and didn’t get a point. At least we got a taste of one of the better teams in the Prairie Football Conference. That helps a little bit. We are quite aware that the Saskatoon Hilltops are a different animal all together.”
Windsor’s wild kingdom features a nimble quarterback, Brandon Reaume, who rushed 47 times for 274 yards and seven touchdowns during the regular season. Reaume also threw for 1,812 yards and a whopping 21 touchdowns with Devon Woods and Omar Hayes Williams as prime targets.
Dangelo Knox added 616 yards on 70 carries to lead the running attack.
“We’ve ran the ball fairly successfully this year (but) this will be the best defensive front we’re playing against by eons,” said Morencie. “The first day I watched their film — I was sitting in my office at home, watching — and my wife said, ‘How do they look like?’ I say, ‘Well, this is our opponent and they’re really good!’ ” He laughed.
“Our strength is we can chuck the ball. We’ve got a very dynamic passing group. Our quarterback is a little like Russell Wilson, an NFL guy you can compare him with. He’s a kid who can run around and create some stuff. He can bootleg it. We can roll him out. He’s got very good wheels so he can run it if he can get out in space.”
Defensively, the Fratmen are led by defensive end Adam Slik boer, who has been practising with the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Morencie expects the Toppers to pound the ball on the ground. He is not sure how to stop that, but he’s prepared to get quite creative trying to do so.
“If we can’t stop the run, we’re going to be in real big trouble,” said Morencie.
“We’re going to do some schemes. I don’t believe, in my heart as a longtime defensive guy, that we can just play them with our front seven. We won’t have a chance. I think we’ve got to add some bodies in the box, get some plus-one situations, get a safety up there. I think, if we play seven-on-seven, we’re going to get our asses knocked off.
“This is a premiere offence we’re facing. Scheme-wise, we’ve got to do some different things to get them off-balance.”
The 110th Canadian Bowl will kick-off Saturday at noon at Alumni Field in Windsor, Ont., between the host Windsor AKO Fratmen and the reigning three-time champion Saskatoon Hilltops.