Packers tackle new expectations

The Maples Packers didn’t have the most successful of seasons last year, their efforts only amounting to two wins, leaving them with a lot of work to be done in the offseason.

However, head coach Shawn Pitterson feels that all of the necessary changes and more have been made.

“There’s no doubt we struggled last year, but we’ve made some new additions, structured the team better and our defence is much improved,” Pitterson said. “I’m very excited to compete this season.”

Shawn blamed much of last year’s disappointment on their lack of preparation.

“We didn’t prepare properly and our preseason workouts were few and far between.”

Football is a game of preparation, you have to know your team and what they’re capable of in order to get the best out of their ability. A team that’s not prepared is not a team with a bright future.

Veteran wide receiver Rupert Whittaker is one of the league’s more entertaining players. He is among the returning cast excited for the Cayman Islands Flag Football Association 2012 Digicel Summer League.

“Watch out for the Packers this year, man,” Whittaker stated. “We did horribly last year, but we’ve added some key new guys, put in a huge offensive line and things look very good.”

The Packers offense has definitely been bolstered by the new line featuring the likes of former Calabash Soldier Andrew Graham. With that, Whittaker states, the expectations for the season have grown.

“We’re going to be at least three games over .500 this year and it’s a huge possibility we’ll make it to the finals.”

Emerging star wide receiver Chris Bennett also has high expectations for the year ahead.

“We’re definitely poised for a championship run, we’ve improved both our defence and offensive lines and added a steady quarterback,” Bennett said. “We added some experienced players and some fresh legs.” Perhaps his most meaningful quote was his also his shortest: “we’re definitely a threat. Definitely.”

Helping to boost expectations are the influx of new, experienced talents like wide receiver/safety Leslie Harvey, linebacker/defensive end George Bustillo, tight-end/linebacker William Peguero Jr and linebacker Edison Jackson. All are former Calabash Soldiers and figure to guide young talents like Nicholas Roberts.

Pitterson is blooming with confidence after building his team with a championship pedigree.

“This season we’ve made huge strides already. We’ve been training for two months and our team looks great. We’ve added a lot of athleticism to the squad and with the veteran leadership we’ve brought in, our future looks very bright.”

The Packers are in a condensed league for 2012, with seven squads suiting up as opposed to the eight sides that played in 2011. Only the top four make the playoffs and Pitterson is confident in a postseason berth.

“We have new members with lots of experience, we have a lot of smart players and some of the younger guys are learning very fast. Our mixture of veterans and athletic ability has got our sights set on playing for a championship.”

The Packers are a changed team, with talent across the board and a very engaged head coach. The Packers’ potential seems immeasurable with no shortage of talent on the offensive end, like Whittaker and star running back Jordan Cacho. New quarterback Barrett Edri has a revamped receiving core with Bennett being a deep threat and Peguero leading the charge.

Peguero is used to a leadership role from his days with Calabash last season and spoke about the transition to a new team.

“Me and a couple other of the Calabash guys bring a lot of experience with us to Maples,” Peguero said. “This team is full of young and exciting talent and with the right leadership we could go very far.”

Peguero is a veteran in the league, being a player since 2004. However, he feels no pressure with his new squad.

“I don’t feel any pressure to try and be a leader, my aim is to just contribute in any way I can and lead by example.”

Peguero’s mind-set at this stage in the game is to just try and fit into the Maples system. He spoke about respecting a new team and just doing his part to try and translate talent into wins during the season.

“We have the personnel and the drive, we just need to work hard, do our parts in practice and everyone needs to contribute across the board. I’m just going to do my part and contribute in any way I can, whether that’s defensively or offensively.”

With veteran leadership from Peguero, young and exciting talent like Bennett, Maples are sure to blossom throughout the course of the regular season.

The Packers have undoubtedly had a very productive offseason, the necessary changes have been made and the expectations are through the roof. Only time will tell whether or not their new and improved squad will rise to the challenge or crumble under newfound pressure.