It’s year two of the Travis Bell era for the Mouat Hawks football club, and expectations are high.
Coming off a 2015 season that saw the club record two wins and four losses, there is room for improvement, and Bell said he has liked what he’s seen from the Hawks summer training camp.
Bell took over the reins of the program from three-time provincial champion coach Dennis Kelly in 2015. He’s hoping to restore that championship glory to the Hawks, and has been laying that foundation the last two months in training camp.
Since Aug. 22, the senior team has been participating in two-a-days, and the mood is upbeat in camp.
“I think this is one of our better teams in a few years,” Bell said. “We want to make the playoffs and hopefully make a good playoff run, you never know once you get in. We need to stay healthy and need a little luck, but I think we have the talent to beat anybody.”
The Hawks season ended abruptly last season, after falling to the Notre Dame Jugglers in the first round of the AAA playoffs. The sting of that loss still burns for some of the Grade 12 players this year. Bell said he will rely heavily on those senior players, noting he expects big years out of Nelson Lokombo, Dylan Manocha and Alex Howman.
Lokombo is a name that should be familiar to local football fans. He’s the younger brother of former Hawk and current BC Lions linebacker Boseko Lokombo.
The younger Lokombo tore up the junior football ranks in 2014, and posted solid numbers at the running back position playing behind Dion Pellerin in the backfield in 2015. This year, he is set to be one of the go-to players for Mouat.
“He’s just a really good athlete on both sides of the ball,” Bell said, noting that he also plays defensive back.
Manocha is also set to be a key running back for the Hawks, and plays an important role on defence at the linebacker position. Last year he was tied for second on the team in sacks, and also scored three touchdowns out of the backfield. Howman is set to be a linebacker again this year, and also take some snaps at quarterback.
The trio of seniors think this should be a year to remember for the Hawks.
“I think we’re looking pretty good for this year,” Manocha said. “We have a lot of good pieces in the right places.”
“We’ve got the leadership and athleticism to be a good team,” Lokombo added.
The players all agreed that last year’s experience will only make this current crop of Hawks stronger for 2016.
“Last year’s seniors really showed us the way and we want to help the younger guys this year,” Howman said.
“The guys from last year taught us a lot and we want to build on that,” Manocha said. “We want to improve on last year and go farther in the playoffs.”
The Hawks opened their preseason with a 49-14 loss to the Everett Seagulls. They host Carson Graham tonight at 7 p.m., and close out the preseason against South Delta in Tsawwassen on Sept. 17. The Hawks open the regular season against Centennial on Sept. 23, and then take on Terry Fox on Sept. 30. Both games are on the road.
The first regular season home game for Mouat is on Oct. 7, when they host Kelowna.
Read next Friday’s print edition of the Abbotsford News for a preview on the Robert Bateman Timberwolves.