By Emilie Medland-Marchen, November 13 2016 —
The fight for the 80th Hardy Cup was a rematch between the University of Calgary Dinos and the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds — but this time, the outcome was entirely different.
The Dinos football team walked away with the Hardy Cup trophy and the title of Canada West champions after a hard-fought victory over their longstanding B.C. rivals. The final score of 46–43 is the highest Hardy Cup scoring total ever.
The next stage in the Dinos’ quest for the Vanier Cup is the Mitchell Bowl against St. Francis Xavier University, set to take place at McMahon Stadium on Nov. 19.
The U of C took an early lead in the first half, but a series of missed opportunities in the third quarter put them within 10 points of repeating last year’s Hardy Cup heartbreaker.
But the Dinos managed to pull through in the fourth quarter and perform a last-minute touchdown and clutch convert, securing the win by just three points.
For head coach Wayne Harris, this year’s win over UBC was two years in the making.
“The last two years, we were heavily favoured to win both Canada West games and we weren’t able to produce,” he said. “This kind of gets that monkey off the back.”
The Dinos charged out of the gate with second year running back Jeshrun Antwi running in an
eight-yard touchdown. With the convert secured by star rookie kicker Niko DiFonte, the Dinos took a 7–0 lead in the first minute and a half of the game.
The Dinos continued to assert their dominance with second-year linebacker Jakub Jakoubek playing a 20-yard fumble recovery touchdown in the first five minutes of the second quarter. A successful convert from Difonte put the Dinos up 36–10 by halftime.
In the third quarter the Dinos’ confidence started to wane. A team safety and two touchdowns from UBC brought the Thunderbirds within 10 points of the Dinos. And a one-yard touchdown run by UBC running back Kory Nagata in the fourth quarter narrowed the gap.
At a score of 39–36, it was anyone’s game.
Calgary fired back with a four-yard touchdown run from Antwi and the successful convert from DiFonte gave the Dinos a 10-point lead with just minutes left in the match.
But UBC was not ready to walk away. A successful two-yard touchdown run and convert brought them within three points of the Dinos. But Calgary would eventually end the night with the Canada West title and the Hardy Cup.
As his players celebrated, Harris reflected on a season. It was one that looked pretty similar this time last year.
“All championship games are tough,” he said. “When you get down to the top two teams in the Canada West, it’s a great group of teams and it’s going to be a battle. It’s never easy.”
For those watching in the stands, it was difficult not to fear a repeat of last year’s Hardy Cup, when the favoured Dinos lost out to the underdog Thunderbirds — a team they had beaten all season.
But this year, the Dinos proved themselves against a team that they have so much history with. UBC’s ability to run on the heels of the Dinos in the third quarter was an impressive effort. But the U of C’s ability to exorcise the ghosts of their 2015 heartbreak was even more remarkable.
“The pressure is more of what you put on yourself,” Harris said. “Tonight was about being focused on the task at hand and staying committed to the game and playing well.”