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Being ranked No. 1 in Canada is a testament to just how good the South collegiate institute Lions football team is expected to be this year.
It’s a testament to the respect and growth of the program.
It’s exciting for the players, especially since they were a unanimous choice.
As for coach Mike Stenning, he’d rather his team wasn’t so much front and centre.
The Lions earned the No. 1 preseason ranking from the Canadian Football Chat website, one of the most extensive football sites in the country.
St. Francis Browns out of Alberta are the No. 2 team.
The Catholic Central Crusaders are ranked No. 10 in the province.
“It’s difficult to rank teams across Canada. It’s not like we have a championship or a way to get to that state championship. We don’t have that,” Stenning said. “We’re an organization of festivals. Do I put a lot of weight into it? . . . No. I try and downplay it with our kids.”
Stenning said he felt his undefeated championship team from last year was “much more deserving of a higher ranking.” His club finished with a No. 12 ranking last year.
“Who wants to be No. 1 in Week 1? No thank you,” he said.
Stenning acknowledges it’s nice recognition for his program.
“Any honours we can get are team honours and we love them,” he said. “It’s fantastic that someone is acknowledging what we’re doing here, but it’s not like we are doing anything different than we’ve done for the last 20 years.”
The high-profile acknowledgement has skewered what Stenning says was one of fuels for his club’s motivation.
“We want to be the underdog,” he said. “We want to be the team that no one gives credit to. We want to be the team that people are taking shots at. That’s what we thrive on. Now what we are going to do? The motivation changes and that’s my expectation this year. We’re going to get everyone’s A-game.”
“I’ve told our kids before: when you do well you are going to get everyone’s best game. We had a great season last year and we’re going to see everyone’s best game. We won a championship in 2001 and then the following year it was like we were in a championship every single week. Everybody puts forth their best effort when they are playing the best. We got banged up a lot that year.”
Canadian Football Chat says the votes for the rankings of the top-tier teams from each province come from CFC reporters and scouts. The ranking is based on strength of league, championships, the number of impact players, including those ranked by CFC, coaching and recent tradition.
Stenning says he’s already talked to his players about the ranking, trying to put things in perspective in terms of what the ranking means.
“Of course, I think (the rankings) came out at 10 o’clock and at 10:01 someone had a phone stuffed in my face telling me what the rankings were,” he said. “Let’s have a dose of reality here. Someone has honoured us in that way, but we haven’t played a game yet. We have no idea.”
Stenning, a former offensive lineman, uses the offensive lineman’s credo when it comes to receiving credit: “I want to give the accolades to other people. This isn’t what I want. I’m not the running back that thrives on this stuff. I hate this stuff. I want anonymity. I want to come from the bottom up. That’s my plan.”
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