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Photo by Bradley Dezall

Dinos football team remain undefeated in 2017-18 season with fourth straight win

By David Song, September 26, 2017 — 

Standing at the home 35-yard line at McMahon Stadium, Dinos running back Jeshrun Antwi takes the hand-off on first down, spins away from a would-be tackler and surges through a crowd of defenders who bring him to the turf. Despite only a modest gain in yardage, Antwi’s teammates are pumped, shouting his name and howling in anticipation of the next play.

The Dinos football team is always excited and supportive of each other, whether it’s a three-yard run or a 60-yard touchdown pass. It’s in the team’s DNA.

On Sept. 23, the Dinos battled the University of Saskatchewan Huskies as part of the University of Calgary’s alumni weekend. Despite sitting atop the Canada West standings, the Dinos knew the third-ranked Huskies would test them. Contrasting the relaxed hip-hop playing over McMahon Stadium’s speakers, the Dinos warm-up was crisp and sharp, with every man heavily focused.

Their intense preparation paid off early in the game. They ended the first quarter up 12–0, thanks to receiver Hunter Karl’s touchdown catch and a short field goal by kicker Niko DiFonte. But the Huskies quickly retaliated, as running back Colton Klassen reached the end zone two minutes into the second quarter. A grueling ground war followed with the Dinos offence struggling to recapture their early success.

The coaches weren’t happy. Neither was equipment manager John Carr.

“I don’t hold back,” Carr said after chastising his players for another failed drive. “If they need it, they need it.”

After several consecutive stops by the Dinos defence, the offence found their rhythm, putting DiFonte in position to kick a 25-yard field goal. Minutes later, they were rolling again, with Karl making a series of key catches. At the end of a long drive, the Dinos landed on the two-yard line with 11 seconds left in the half and no timeouts remaining.

The conservative play would be to try a field goal and take guaranteed points into halftime. Assistant coach Ryan Sheahan knew his team needed a spark. Immediately, he called out “Jumbo, jumbo!”, instructing the short-yardage unit to go for a touchdown. Sheahan’s decisive play calling paid off — backup quarterback Josiah Joseph rolled to the right, connecting with fifth-year receiver Michael Klukas. The Dinos went into the locker room up 22–8.

Fourth-year linebacker Boston Rowe praised the Dinos coaching staff.

“They always give us a chance to win and they believe that we can do our jobs. I believe we have the best coaches in the country,” Rowe said.

Momentum swung back and forth in the third quarter. The Huskies cut the lead to eight with a pair of field goals. Quarterback Adam Sinagra struggled to complete passes as the Saskatchewan pass rush heated up. Despite the tension, the team stayed positive.

Under immense pressure, the Dinos defence made a critical play 10 minutes into the second half. Defensive lineman Cory Robinson deflected a pass high into the air, enabling Rowe to position himself under it. The senior linebacker returned the interception for a 16-yard touchdown as his home sideline erupted with excitement.

“The defensive line get great pressure and they got their hands up,” Rowe said. “I was able to catch it and just keep running. Don’t get hit by the quarterback, that’s all.”

The Huskies continued to fight despite trailing 29–14. Klassen capped off their next possession with a 37-yard touchdown run, eluding multiple Dinos in the process. Right after, the Huskies defensive back Payton Hall intercepted Sinagra, setting up a 36-yard touchdown pass. The Dinos’ slipped to 30–28.

Head coach Wayne Harris remained calm despite the tumultuous turn of events.

“We’ve been in these kinds of games before,” he explained. “Part of it is the experience of our team. Part of it is our coaching staff. They know how to settle the team and know how to talk to the guys. They know what adjustments we need to make.”

After a strong defensive play to start the fourth quarter, the Dinos went up on the Huskies’ 17-yard line. Antwi took full advantage, scoring an eight-yard touchdown run to put the Dinos up 37–28. This time, they didn’t look back.

In the game’s tense final minutes, freshman Deane Leonard added a 60–yard punt return touchdown and Klukas caught his second major score of the night for a 51–28 finish.

Friends and family members swarmed the field to celebrate with the Dinos, who now remain undefeated in the 2017–18 season.

Second-year defensive back Treshaun Abrahams-Webster commended the team’s unity.

“I think it was a really good team win,” Abrahams-Webster said. “When we were down, the offence picked us up, and when the offence was down, we picked them up. I think the chemistry in this game was really perfect.”

On Oct. 6, the Dinos travel to Vancouver to take on the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds in a highly anticipated rivalry matchup. The Thunderbirds stand second in the Canada West league. With three wins and one loss, they promise to be a stiff challenge.

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