Tuesday, August 29, 2017

2017 Canada West Football Season Ready To GO

Image result for hardy cup 

A new Canada West football season hits the gridiron Friday, as a full slate of games opens the 2017 campaign.

Highlighting the Week 1 action is a rematch of last season's Hardy Cup semi between the UBC Thunderbirds and Regina Rams (Friday, Sept. 1 - 7 p.m. CST). The meeting marks the fourth time in the last 12 months that the two teams will meet, after the Rams swept the regular season series a year ago, only to fall 40-34 in the conference semis.

Both teams enter the new season with high expectations. UBC returns 21 of 24 starters, while the Rams have a few more holes to fill with a combined 15 starters returning, but also the nation's top player from a year ago in the form of Hec Crighton Award winner Noah Picton still in the fold.
Picton is coming off a magical 2016 season in which he led the nation in passing yards per game (398.3) and passing touchdowns (25).
Those numbers powered the Rams to 4,290 yards of total offence last season, which was the second highest total in U SPORTS behind Western.

Picton will once again have his favourite target in the fold this season, as cousin Mitchell Picton returns to the Rams for his final year of eligibility.

The Picton-to-Picton connection was unstoppable at times last season in the Queen City, as Mitchell led the nation with 11 touchdown catches and was first in CW in both receptions (58) and receiving yards (834).

While the T-Birds and Rams might provide the most compelling storyline based on their recent history, the other two season openers provide intrigue in their own right.

Manitoba welcomes Saskatchewan to Winnipeg, where first-year Huskies coach Scott Flory looks to get his first win out of the way in short order (Friday, Sept. 1 - 7 p.m. CDT).

While Flory is new to the head coaching role in Saskatchewan after serving the last severals years on previous head coach Brian Towriss' staff, he is far from the only change on the Huskies staff this season. Marcus Crandell (offensive), Warren Muzika (defensive) and Jerry Friesen (special teams) are also new to the fold, as the Huskies look to return to prominence.

Rounding out the Week 1 action is the Battle of Alberta, as the Alberta Golden Bears and Calgary Dinos go head-to-head in the Alberta capital (Friday, Sept. 1 - 7 p.m. MDT).

The storylines around this matchup are much the same as they have been for the last several seasons, as the Bears enter the season looking to end their playoff hiatus, while the Dinos are favourites to return to the Hardy Cup and challenge for a trip to the Vanier Cup.

This season might be different for the Bears, who haven't been to the playoffs since 2010, as quarterback Brad Baker has impressed in training camp. Whether that translates into an opening night win against Calgary remains to be seen, as the Dinos enter the contest having outscored Alberta by a combined score of 194-71 in three meetings since 2015.

All three games can be seen live by visiting the revamped Canada West TV.

Click here for the CW FB weekly notes as a PDF.

Saskatchewan Huskies vs. Manitoba Bisons

Friday, September 1
7 p.m. CDT
Investors Group Field - Winnipeg, Man.
WATCH: Canada West TV
For the first time since 1984, the Saskatchewan Huskies have a rookie head coach at the helm. Scott Flory's regular season tenure begins Friday. Flory replaces former HC Brian Towriss, who led the Huskies to three Vanier Cups between 1984 and 2016.

After an injury-plagued 2016 season, receiver Mitch Hillis is back and looking to return to his 2015 form. An 8th round pick of the Riders in this year's CFL Draft, Hillis averaged 131.5 YPG back in 2015 and finished second in the CW receiving race.

The Herd enter the season looking to avoid consecuitve seasons outside the playoffs for the first time since they missed the cut four consecutive campaigns between 2008 and 2011.

A big reason for the Bisons struggles in 2016 was their pass defence, which was the worst in the nation. Manitoba surrendered 361.8 YPG last season. The Herd were one of eight teams in U SPORTS to surrender 300+ aerial YPG.

UBC Thunderbirds vs. Regina Rams

Friday, September 1
7 p.m. CST
Mosaic Stadium - Regina, Sask.
WATCH: Canada West TV

Friday's season opener marks the fourth time in the last 12 months the T-Birds and Rams will meet. Regina took both regular season games in 2016, before UBC earned a semifinal win in the Rams' final game at the old Mosaic Stadium.

For the third straight season, the reigning Hec Crighton award winner hails from CW, as Rams QB Noah Picton enters the year with the honour to his name. This is the first time the national player of the year has come from CW three consecutive seasons.

Entering the season with plenty of expectations is UBC QB Michael O'Connor. The third-year pivot was sharp in his pre-season effort against Alberta, going 23-for-25 for 280 yards and three TDs in just a half of work.

Two years removed from their run to the Vanier Cup, UBC appears poised for another deep run through the conference and national playoffs. The T-Birds return 21 starters from a year ago, including 11 on offence

Calgary Dinos vs. Alberta Golden Bears

Friday, September 1
7 p.m. CST
Mosaic Stadium - Regina, Sask.
WATCH: Canada West TV

It's been nine years since Alberta beat Calgary on the field. Minus a forfeit win for the Bears, Alberta is 0-13 against their provincial rivals. The average margin of defeat over the stretch has been 40+ points.

Once again last season, the Calgary Dinos put up big offensive numbers. The Dinos rushing attack led the charge, as Calgary was one of six teams nationally to average 500+ YPG offensively, racking up 507.4 YPG.

Despite some recent struggles, Alberta's last season opening win wasn't long ago. The Bears opened the 2015 season with a 29-22 victory over Regina, followed by a Week 2 win over Saskatchewan. Alberta, however, would finish the season 2-6.

Leading the Bears this season at the QB position is Brad Baker. After missing all of 2016 with an ACL tear, Baker enters the season looking to follow in the footsteps of his former HS coach Darryl Salmon, who led the Bears to three Hardy Cup appearances (2003-05).

(Canada West) 


Anonymous said...

Bryce and crew will get a rude awakening Friday. No one is beating UBC!

Anonymous said...

Rams-UBC in a preview of Hardy Cup.