If you want a preview of how the recently renamed York Lions football team might perform this season, watch them shape up at their pre-season training camp. That will be every morning for the next nine days at the York Practice Field, just west of the York stadium. Coach Tom Gretes hasn’t given them a single day off from daily 8:30am-noon practices, unless you count the team’s annual intra-squad game scheduled for Aug. 27 at 5pm.
From 110 potential players, including 65 veterans, Gretes, assistant coach Mike Williams and 10 part-time seasonal coaches will choose 80-85 for the 2003 team. To qualify, players must not only be good at the game but maintain a C average academically.
Right: OUA Coach of the Year Tom Gretes
Last year, the team – then called the Yeomen – advanced to the Ontario University Association (OUA) semifinals. This year, “I hope to compete at the national level,” says Gretes, who was named 2002 OUA Coach of the Year.
Last year also stands out in York sports history as the first year it both hosted and won a playoff game. York came fourth in a 10-team league.
Left: OUA All-Star Neil Maki
The team boasts three All-Stars. Defensive backs Neil Maki (left) and Clinton John (below right) were named OUA All-Stars last year. Maki is York’s all-time career interception leader, while John has been one of the top returners in the OUA the last two years. And offensive line anchor Anthony Forgione is two-time OUA All-Star in 2001 and 2002.
Two days after training camp finishes, York will open the season Sept. 1 at Queen’s University. The Lions return to York for the home opener Sept. 6 against McMaster University.
Right: OUA All-Star Clinton John
This year’s team includes 17 returning starters (nine on offence and eight on defence) from the 2002 team, says a SportYork news release. Among the returnees on offence is starting tailback Josh Martyr, who was York’s leading rusher in 2002 with 440 yards on 80 carries. He is joined by third-year quarterback J.P. Marchello, who takes over for departed veteran Billy Barbosa. Marchello completed 26 of 65 passes for 357 yards and two touchdowns in limited action last year.
Fourth-year veteran Jon Vodarek returns to the receiving corps after missing last season due to injury. Fourth-year veteran Gianfranco Rocca will handle both the punting and place-kicking duties this season. Rocca hit 12 of 26 field goals and punted for an average of 34.0 yards last year.