Sunday, 4 November 2018

Huskies playoff upset of T-Birds a monumental one

Sean Stenger (#23) hit the OT playoff winning field goal.
    Sean Stenger made the kick that was heard around the U Sports football world.
    On Saturday at Thunderbird Stadium in Vancouver B.C., the fifth-year kicker and all-time leading scorer for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies football team booted a 38-yard field goal in overtime to give his squad a 31-28 victory over the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds in a Canada West Conference semifinal playoff match.
    Stenger’s kick before 738 spectators gave the Huskies their first post-season victory since November 7, 2009, when they downed the University of Regina Rams 53-23 at Griffiths Stadium in a Canada West semifinal match. In the process, the Huskies ended a playoff losing streak that had spanned eight games.
    Before Saturday’s game, the Huskies were 1-11 in their previous 12 post-season contests.
    Both the Huskies and the Thunderbirds posted 5-3 regular season records heading into their playoff clash. UBC earned second place in the conference and home field advantage for the post-season encounter due to beating the Huskies 20-10 in the lone regular season encounter between the two sides on October 12 in Vancouver.
    While the two sides had identical records, this was a game the Huskies, who failed to make the post-season last year, weren’t supposed to win.
Jesse Kuntz caught the TD pass that forced overtime.
    Their playoff struggles since last making the Vanier Cup and falling to the Universite Laval Rouge et Or 13-8 at Griffiths Stadium on November 25, 2006 have been well publicized.
    The playoff stumbles weren’t the only thing standing in the Huskies way.
    They were heading on the road to play a Thunderbirds team that has Blake Nill as head coach. Nill’s teams had made the Canada West title game – the Hardy Cup – for the last 10 straight years and claimed victory on seven of those occasions.
    That run included seven straight appearances with the University of Calgary Dinos from 2008 to 2014 and three straight appearances the past three years with the Thunderbirds.
    Going into the playoffs this season, the Thunderbirds had won their last three straight games. Despite their early struggles, it appeared UBC had righted the ship.
    Teams coached by Nill just don’t lose at this point in the U Sports playoffs. Playing at home and riding a hot streak, it was supposed to be impossible to see an opponent come out with a victory.
    The Huskies were expected to put in a good effort and proceed to bow out into the off-season with the fifth-year grads crying tears of sadness.
    The Dogs defied all odds and came away winning a post-season classic that the Huskies players will remember for the rest of their lives.
    After falling behind 10-0, the Huskies stormed back to take a 20-10 lead in the third quarter. UBC forced a 20-20 tie early in the fourth quarter, but the Huskies went in front by a single point 21-20 on a 46-yard punt single by Stenger.
Kyle Siemens delivered a TD toss that forced overtime.
    It appeared that would be the last U of S lead on the day.
    The Thunderbirds mounted an 11-play, 75-yard drive that ended with star fourth-year quarterback Michael O’Connor hitting standout receiver Trivel Pinto with a four-yard touchdown pass with 1:46 remaining in the fourth quarter. The two connected on a pass for a two-point convert to give the Thunderbirds a 28-21 advantage.
    On the ensuing Huskies possession, Thunderbirds defensive back Stavros Katsantonis intercepted fifth-year Huskies star quarterback Kyle Siemens at the UBC 33 yard line with 75 seconds remaining in the frame.
    Thanks to having a couple of timeouts to use, the Huskies forced the Thunderbirds to punt after two running plays. On the punt, a no yards penalty and an unnecessary roughness facemask penalty on the Thunderbirds allowed the Huskies to start a march at the UBC 47 yard-line with 51 seconds remaining on the clock.
    Siemens drove the Huskies offence that distance in four plays and connected with receiver Jesse Kuntz on a 14-yard touchdown reception with 21 seconds to play in the stanza to tie things up at 28-28 and force overtime.
    In the shootout style overtime format, the Thunderbirds had the first possession. UBC kicker Greg Hutchins missed a 33-yard field goal and Huskies running back/receiver Colton Klassen ran the ball out of the end zone to ensure the score remained tied at 28-28.
Tyler Chow ran in two major scores for the Huskies.
    Stenger hit his winning field goal on the Huskies ensuing possession.
    This was a win where the Huskies found a way to get it done.
    O’Connor completed 28-of-41 passes for 435 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Besides throwing a touchdown toss to Pinto, O’Connor threw major scores to Ben Cummings from 25 yards out and Blake Whiteley from 24 yards out.
    Siemens, who has thrown the second most passing yards in the history of the Huskies program, had a more pedestrian day hitting on 19-of-31 passes for 222 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
    Fifth-year running back Tyler Chow grinded out 89 yards rushing on 21 carries and ran home touchdowns from one and 16 yards out. He hauled in six passes for 54 yards to go along with his efforts on the ground.
    Hutchins hit field goals from 12 and 21 yards out to round out UBC’s scoring.
    Stenger hit field goals from 33 and 37 yards out in regulation for the Huskies.
    Defensively, Bowan Lewis had 10.5 total tackles for the Huskies, while linebackers and brothers Thomas and Ben Whiting had nine and seven total tackles respectively.
Thomas Whiting had nine tackles for the Huskies.
    Under second-year head coach Scott Flory, this playoff victory by the Huskies was monumental and a big step forward for the football program.
    The Huskies showed they can finally win again in the U Sports football post-season, and they knocked off a team guided by a head coach in Nill, who continually guides teams on long playoff runs.
    Now, the Huskies get to travel to Calgary, Alta., to face the Dinos, who are a combined 9-0 in the regular season and post-season, in the Hardy Cup final to determine the Canada West champion this coming Saturday at McMahon Stadium at 1 p.m. Calgary time.
    The Dinos took the other Canada West semifinal 37-13 last Saturday in Calgary against the University of Manitoba Bisons. U of C will be appearing in the Hardy Cup final for the 11th straight year.
    U of S is once against faced with the task of manufacturing another monumental upset.
    Still, it appears you can’t count these football Huskies out. The belief is there that anything is possible.

Hilltops to face Rams in Canadian Bowl

    The Jevon Cottoy show powered the Langley Rams into the Canadian Bowl.
    On Saturday in Langley, B.C., the 22-year-old receiver hauled in nine passes for 190 yards and scored three touchdowns, ran in a major from a yard out and kicked a 54-yard punt single to power the Rams to a 39-14 romp over the Hamilton Hurricanes in a Canadian Junior Football League national semifinal contest. Quarterback Duncan Little hit Cottoy with the three touchdown tosses in the semifinal game at McLeod Stadium in Langley, B.C.
    With the win, the Rams, who improved to 10-3 overall, advance to the CJFL title game – the Canadian Bowl – to face the four time defending champion Saskatoon Hilltops on Saturday, Nov. 17 at 1 p.m. at Saskatoon Minor Football Field. The Hilltops are 10-0 overall on the campaign and trying to complete their fourth perfect season in team history and first since 2003.
    The Hurricanes finished the 2018 campaign with a 10-1 overall record.
    The Hilltops and Rams are familiar foes in the Canadian Bowl as they will meet in the CJFL title game for the third time in seven years.
    The previous two encounters were both held in McLeod Stadium.
    In 2012, the Hilltops claimed one of the all-time classic CJFL title encounters downing the Rams 23-21. In 2014, the Hilltops ran away with a 39-14 victory, which started their current run of winning four straight CJFL championships.
    The Hilltops will be trying to win their 21st CJFL title in their upcoming Canadian Bowl clash with the Rams.

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