For the first time in nine years, the Huskies are going to the Hardy Cup Championship game. The football team played against the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds this weekend — a team who had defeated them in their previous three encounters — and finished the game victorious.
The game was played at the Vancouver Thunderbird Stadium — the T-Birds got the home playoff date after a victory against the Manitoba Bisons. UBC came into the playoff game with three back-to-back victories — the Huskies, with two. The two teams were well-matched with the game ending on a 31-28 score, with the winning field goal being scored in overtime by fifth-year kicker Sean Stenger.
The Huskies had faced the Thunderbirds previously in the season. On their Oct. 12 meeting at Thunderbird Stadium, the Huskies dropped the game at 10-20 — they struggled to get past the T-Birds’ defence and into the end zone. Head Coach Scott Flory says the team kept their past mistakes in mind during this weekend’s game, but they didn’t let them get in the way of their positive mentality.
“We focused a lot on protecting the football when we got in the red zone — going into the game, the guys were prepared,” Flory said. “We had good energy, and we were feeling good going in. We had some rain and ugly weather, but we fought through it.”
The team’s preparations paid off — the Huskies scored 21 points more than in October’s match. Defence also played an important part in their success. With just 51 seconds left to play, Bowan Lewis and Ben Whiting stopped what would have been UBC’s winning play and made it possible for Kyle Siemens to perform the drive that sent the game into overtime.
Flory says it is important that offence, defence and special teams work together.
“We want to play complementary football — make sure that our offence is complementing our defence, defence is complementing special teams and all the way back around,” Flory said. “A total team effort.”
Lewis was named one of the Canada West players of the week for reaching a conference season high of 10.5 tackles in the game. His performance, along with Siemen’s crucial drive and Stenger’s winning goal, is testament to the continued success that fifth-year Huskies are having in their final season games. Flory says their performance over the past few weeks has been indicative of their roles on the team.
“Our senior players are, and have to be, our best players,” Flory said. “They’ve shown this, for sure, these last few weeks.”
Before leaving, the fifth-years will play at the Hardy Cup Championship game for the first time in their Huskies careers. The team will be facing the University of Calgary Dinos at McMahon Stadium in Calgary on Nov. 10.
The Dinos got their spot in a 37-13 match against the University of Manitoba Bisons where they struggled in the first half and dominated in the second. If they win against the Huskies, they will achieve their third consecutive Canada West title.
Closer to the title than they have been in almost a decade, the Huskies have their eyes on the prize. Flory is proud of the team’s performance this year but reminds them that the season is not over yet.
“I’m proud of the way the players fought and never quit. I think that they believe in themselves and what they are capable of — it’s just a matter of executing that,” Flory said. “Right after the game, I told them, ‘We still have work to do.’”
Ana Cristina Camacho / Staff Writer
Photo: Heywood Yu / Supplied