The Dinos football team defeated the University of Manitoba Bisons 43–28 on Saturday, Nov. 9 to capture their sixth straight Hardy Cup title. In doing so, they improved their 2013 record to 10–0 and laid to rest any remaining doubts that they were the best team in the Canada West conference this year.
The Dinos now advance to face the Western Mustangs in the Mitchell Bowl in a national semi-final game.
“It feels amazing,” said rookie receiver Rashaun Simonise. “I think it’s a pretty big achievement that we won the Canada West considering that there are so many great teams in the west.”
The Dinos wasted little time defending their title, scoring on their opening drive as second-year running back and Canada West Most Valuable Player Mercer Timmis weaved his way through the Bisons defence on a 27-yard touchdown run that put the Dinos up 7–0 early in the first quarter.
The defence put up some points on their first showing against the Bisons as well, forcing them to take a knee in the endzone for the safety touch. After a series of unsuccessful drives by both teams, Bisons quarterback Jordan Yantz found running back Kienan LaFrance wide open in the middle of the endzone to cut the Dinos’s lead down to 9–7.
The Dinos broke the game open in the second quarter. Quarterback Andrew Buckley lead the charge, finding a hole down the middle for a big 17-yard gain, firing a couple passes to receiver Chris Dobko for two first downs and finally finding receiver Jake Harty in the endzone for a 16–7 lead.
The Bisons would bring the ball back to midfield on the ensuing kickoff, but their promising field position would be squandered as Dinos defensive lineman Tyler Langlais chased Yantz back 10 yards for the sack on second down.
“Coach really made sure that we were prepped and we had to come out firing on all cylinders every single time that we were on the field,” said Langlais. “Any little mistake could give them momentum and it could really turn the game around for us.”
Langlais’s sack paid immediate dividends, as Buckley hit a slanting Simonise for a beautiful 57-yard touchdown pass on the Dinos’s next possession. The Dinos lead 26–7 at halftime.
The Bisons would take advantage of a Simonise punt return fumble early in the third quarter, quickly converting the mistake into a touchdown. However, on the ensuing Dinos possession, Timmis would tear down the sideline for a 42-yard gain. With Timmis recovering from his dash, backup running back Cuong Thai Lieu would bolt down the middle for a touchdown on a 42-yard run of his own.
The Bisons would score two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, but the Dinos would hold them off for a 15-point win. Timmis added a 33-yard touchdown run, a play in which he surpassed the school playoff record for rushing yards. He finished the game 279 rushing yards on 28 attempts.
The Dinos now turn their attention to Saturday, Nov. 16, when they will host the Western Mustangs in the Mitchell Bowl matchup. The Mustangs are the top-ranked team in Canada, and will be an enormous challenge, even for the undefeated Dinos.
“It’s a huge test,” said head coach Blake Nill. “This is the top team coming in. They’re a veteran team, but the way I look at it is that we are going to prepare to the best of our ability. We’re going to come out and play the game to the best of our ability.”
Nill can’t help but look into the future to see how a long playoff run will benefit his young squad.
“The experience that these kids are getting now is going to pay dividends in the future,” Nill continued. “This is amazing that they’re allowed to play this many games at this high end, this early in their careers.”
Tickets for the Mitchell Bowl will be free for the first 250 students at McMahon Stadium at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 14. These students will also receive a $20 Roadhouse gift card and VIP pass. If no amount of Roadhouse VIP passes can convince you to brave the cold bleachers of McMahon in mid-November, the game will be broadcast on Sportsnet 360 to a national audience.