FAIRBANKS, Alaska - The first four days of training camp are in the books for the North Pole Patriots as they prepare for the 2018 Season. This will be the third year under head coach Dennis Diviney and their first as a member of the new Division 2 Railbelt Conference. The Two-A-Day schedule with Practices at 9 am and 4:30 pm may be grueling, but the young Patriots are embracing the grind.
Coach Dennis Diviney:"It's been a really good atmosphere. We're a young group of kids. We've got a lot of excitement. These kids have really responded well. We've worked them real hard."
Zach Erickson:"We did way more stuff than we would do, even last year at this time. We were able to knock out some really big plays and really big communication working between all of us. Our chemistry is really strong this year."
This year will see a lot of change for the Pats. Other than the new conference they will call home beginning this year, which also hosts the Lathrop Malemutes and the West Valley Wolfpack, they also had to abandon their Midnight Madness tradition to start camp because of construction. They will be moving away from the Wing-T Style offense they ran last year and will be using a spread offense Scheme. The biggest change on the field may be the senior class that the Patriots will have to replace. They lost Longtime starting Quarterback Craig Borba, and All-State talent such as Receiver Jamie Johnson, Tackle Jacob Breazeale, and Linebacker CJ Fontana to graduation. Replacing that amount of talent is a big challenge, but these Patriots are up to the task.
Zach Erickson:"Almost three quarters of my offense is really really close to me. We're able to really connect in ways we haven't been able to in the past. And especially now that we're seniors, it means everything."
Coach Dennis Diviney:"We get them to a level where they're going to be competitive. We work with them every day. We're hoping that we'll have a couple that will step up and fill those shoes. We know we're going to miss those guys who were here. They were tremendous athletes."
The Pats will begin this season on Saturday August 11th with a match-up against an old rival that we haven't seen in over a decade. They will face the Eielson Ravens in a Blood Bowl match-up for the first time since 2007. They will also take on the team who has eliminated them from the playoffs in each of the past two seasons and reigning State Champion Soldotna Stars on August 17th. The Patriots are excited for the match-ups this year, but are taking everything on game at a time.
Branden Mackenzie:"I have a feeling we'll go far. A lot of us have team chemistry and we're able to communicate with each other quicker and faster. We've been playing Lathrop this entire time, I'm excited to get another go at them. I haven't had a chance to play West Valley yet, so I'm excited to play teams I haven't played yet."
Zach Erickson:"I'm really excited. I have a real good feeling that we'll be able to go far with this team, definitely make the playoffs, and take state."