Reece Wyke (far left) will be a big part of River East's offence this year.
Last season, River East returned to the pinnacle in Division 2, winning the CTV Bowl -- the first championship for the school since 1997.
Their success has propelled them into Division 1 in 2019, however the team will have a much different look this year. Arguably the biggest change comes at the head coaching position, with ten year veteran Robin Meade taking over for a Manitoba Bisons-bound Sean Oleksewycz.
The rookie bench boss played a huge role in getting the squad to buy in in 2018 and will be missed, however Meade -- who coached the JV team at River East last year -- has tons of experience and will have his team ready.
Nine starters are back from the championship team, led by senior kicker/punter/slotback Reece Wyke, a standout for Team Manitoba during this summer's Canada Cup who was also a difference-maker in the CTV Bowl. Alongside him is senior running back Owen Unrau, who consistently got better as the 2018 season progressed and is primed for a breakout year.
With the graduation of Sammy Hezekiah (now with the Bisons), quarterbacking duties will be handled by converted hockey star Zach Topping. The sophomore is a dual threat pivot who showed his speed during the U16 Western Challenge and will be a player to watch over the next few years.
"Offensively, our strength is variety," says Meade.
"We will have solid starters at all of the skilled positions each capable of making plays. We are going to share the ball. Defenses won’t be able to key on any one player."
Defensively, the secondary will be a position of strength with a number of ballhawks who aren't afraid of contact and will be counted on for "tenacious pursuit and excellent tackling." That group is anchored by senior safety Simon Kosman, a heat-seeking missile who can change games.
Senior linebacker Landon Colburn will also play a massive role, along with fellow grade 12 Isaiah Rawluk who will be looked upon to fill a void left by Spenser Pilon.