A lot has been accomplished in the first 10 years of the reinvigorated New Westminster Hyacks high school football program. But there is still a lot more to come.
The Hyacks have yet to taste their first AAA conference football title or to step out onto the turf at B.C. Place for a shot at a provincial championship title.
That could all change in the next decade, said New Westminster head coach Farhan Lalji.
"We should be a provincial contender," said Lalji. "It's my target. What I want is consistency."
What the Hyacks have achieved since 2003, when the varsity football program was restarted, has for the most part, been a history of positive growth.
New West made the playoffs in its first season of AA and the following year, scored its first postseason victory in the wildcard round in a memorable win over Ballenas at Mercer Stadium.
The team went AAA in 2005, earning a first-round playoff game against West Vancouver at B.C. Place.
In 2007, the Hyacks converted to a Wing-T offence and fashioned arguably its best-ever season and playoff with post-season wins over W.J. Mouat and South Kamloops before giving eventual runaway provincial champion Holy Cross, its stiffest test in the Hyack program's first appearance in an AAA semifinal.
The following 2008 and '09 seasons were equally productive for the Hyacks.
In '08 New West went 7-2 before meeting eventual champion Terry Fox in the final four. The next season, the Hyacks fashioned a best-ever 9-1 record but lost out in similar fashion to another Coquitlam school - Centennial.
"My most special year as a coach was the playoff win over Ballenas," said Lalji. "But the best teams were '09, '08, '05, and '07 was probably there."
Lalji sees a similarity with the 2007 team, a squad that spawned 13 of The Record's all-decade team candidates, and his current crop of prospects.
There were three years of kids on that team and a core group carried the Hyacks through its most productive period to date.
"The truth is, I feel a bit of that '07 team is in this team," Lalji said. "We were good everywhere - deep and balanced."
Both this year's varsity and junior varsity teams have "fantastic chemistry" added Lalji.
"There were no expectations like the '07 team. I'm not kidding myself, the other teams are good, but this team has a chance to put us back where we belong."
With Tommy Robertson in his second year as starting quarterback and Tristan Sands working hard in practice to be his go-to man down field, New West is putting together the necessary pieces.
Aldrin Asuncion, coming off an injured 2011 season, headlines a deep backfield, while linemen Sonu Kainth and JV Harper Sherman will complement Jonathan He and Jordan Chin in the trenches.
But after the last two varsity seasons, Lalji is cautiously optimistic about the season ahead.
"Getting a title is hard. As good as you are, there are three or four teams just as good," Lalji said. "There is always going to be Vancouver College and Terry Fox, or a Mouat or Mt. Doug. You know when you get to the final four, there won't be any easy games at that point. But this will be a good year for us."
New Westminster puts its current all-time 32-19 record at Mercer Stadium on the line against Abbotsford at the Hyacks home opener on Friday, Sept. 7.