COLIN CORNEAU/THE BRANDON SUN
Plainsmen quarterback Ryan Baker (left) and receiver Taylor Maloney have honed their chemistry for years.
Ryan Baker and Taylor Maloney’s dominance in the Winnipeg High School Football League’s Kas Vidruk West Division last season was years in the making.
Baker, Crocus Plains’ starting quarterback, and Maloney, the Plainsmen’s top receiver, grew up a few houses apart from each other and have been close friends for a while. After school, the two boys could often be found playing catch and they continued their connection when they joined minor football six years ago as Baker became a quarterback and Maloney a receiver.
In the fall, the on-field chemistry between the Grade 11 students was obvious with Baker leading the Kas Vidruk West Division with 177 passing attempts, 91 completions and 1,411 passing yards. Maloney hauled in 40 of those passes for 758 yards, both division-leading statistics.
"I think being friends helps each other out a lot on the field," Maloney said. "I think you can just trust one another and that the other person is going to do their job."
Baker and Maloney, who hit the field again this week as the Plainsmen began their spring camp, know their outstanding season will put targets on their backs this fall. Maloney, who’s 6-foot-2 and 170 pounds, anticipates that other teams may start focusing on him, but that may work to Crocus’ advantage.
The 5-foot-10, 180-pound Baker believes that if teams are so focused on shutting down the Plainsmen’s passing game, then they can get their ground game going easier.
Crocus didn’t have much of a running threat last season, but Victor St. Pierre is moving up to the varsity ranks this season, which should give the Plainsmen more of a balanced attack. St. Pierre led the junior varsity division of the Winnipeg league with 1,503 rushing yards last season.
"It definitely gives other teams the thought that we’re not all passing and that we do have a running attack too, which can make them second-guess and make passing a lot easier because they don’t know if the run or pass is coming," Baker said. "It’s nice to have a running game."
Although Crocus head coach Kevin Boyd wants to run the ball more next season, he still plans to showcase the chemistry between his star quarterback and receiver.
"We’ll probably be running a little bit more, but they’ll still be a huge part of it and I expect them to do a lot," he said.
Baker, Maloney and the other Plainsmen veterans have had a chance to meet some new teammates in spring camp. On Friday, the team will travel to Yorkton, Sask., to play an exhibition game.
"It’s a nice team-building thing for us," Boyd said. "For the new guys coming up, they can see what it’s like travelling with the varsity team and go from there. It’s a lot of fun."
The Neelin Spartans’ spring camp opens on Monday and runs through to Friday. It culminates with an intrasquad game on Friday at 4:15 p.m.
Head coach Robert Cullen is expecting up to 50 kids to participate in the camp. He’s hoping to see what kind of talent the Spartans will have and prepare them for their summer camp this July in Vermillion, S.D. That camp includes high school teams from Oklahoma, Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota and Texas.
"(The camp will be) exposure for the kids and it’s run by the University of South Dakota," he said. "It’s a great opportunity for kids to step up and see the different level of ball there."
Meanwhile, the Vincent Massey Vikings will open their spring camp on Tuesday and Wednesday. They’ll also run sessions on May 28, 30 and June 1, wrapping up their camp with an intrasquad game.
Head coach Mike Steeves is interested to see what players can step into certain roles, especially on the offensive side of the ball as he’s taking over as offensive co-ordinator after Kevin Doerksen left the team.
"For me it’s trying to get back in the game and put together my offence and figure out the pieces and who’s going to play in those positions," he said.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition May 19, 2012