Richard Lugumire can make plays with both his legs and feet
The 2018 Sisler Spartans season was the Austin Balan show. He made plays as both a safety and running back en route to being named the Elite Performance Defensive Player of the Year and Bomber Alumni Most Outstanding Player for Division 1.
But with Balan -- referred to as a "generational talent" by co-head coach Sean Esselemont -- now starting as a true freshman for the Manitoba Bisons, he and fellow lead man David DeGrave have been forced to re-tool.
On defense, Kyle Bolton will slide into Balan's free safety role, while former Team Manitoba U16 member Evan Hauser-Blakey will take on the role of primary ball carrier.
Hauser-Blakey, along with fellow junior Richard Lugumire at the pivot position are two grade 11's that are primed for a stellar 2019 campaign. The latter started for the team as a sophomore and was a Division 1 Rookie of the Year nominee. He was a member of Team Manitoba U18 this summer and can make plays with both his legs and arm.
But the real show-stealer offensively is senior Steven Koniuck, one of the most highly touted receivers coming out of the province since year. His blistering speed and intelligent route-running are a just two aspects of his well-rounded game.
Lugumire and Koniuck represent two of the five starters that Sisler will have back this year on offence.
Defensively, look for returning seniors Malcom Austria, Phoenix Conway, Nahum Meshesha, Bradyn Wityshyn, and Kyle Bolton, as well as provincial team member Owen Miller (junior) to have a big presence.
Conway and Austria are a solid duo at linebacker while Wityshyn and Miller provide stability in the secondary. Meshesha, along with Vincent Kipling, a two-way offensive/defensive lineman for the JV team as well as a captain of the U16 squad this summer, will be key in holding the line of scrimmage.
These players will "look to create a lot of pressure and turnovers in the 2019 season," Esselmont says.
Additionally, look for receiver/kicker Nick Moncado to be a potential x-factor with his leg. His ability to get the team points from the 35 on a regular basis is a major plus.