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Jimmy Underdahl comeback creates winning momentum for Dinos in Mitchell Bowl

By Emilie Medland-Marchen, November 20 2016 —

With the return of previously injured star quarterback Jimmy Underdahl, the Dinos football team powered through Mitchell Bowl opponent St. Francis Xavier University to a 50–24 victory. With the win, the Dinos will head to the Vanier Cup against the Laval University Rouge et Or in Hamilton, Ontario on Nov. 26.

The night marked the triumphant third-quarter return of Jimmy Underdahl, making his first appearance since suffering a regular season injury. His return after halftime led to two quick touchdown throws that gave the Dinos the confidence to run away with the game.

Head coach Wayne Harris’ Dinos put on a show in the second half of the match with Underdahl leading the pack. After a stagnant first half, it looked like an entirely new team had taken the field.

“We debated whether we were going to make the change right away [with Underdahl] or not,” Harris said. “We just felt we had to bring Jimmy in at some point in time, and that was a good point to do it.”

Underdahl’s surprise appearance helped push the Dinos ahead to a considerable 32–14 lead in the first four minutes of the third quarter. It was a lead that remained unchallenged by St.Fx for the remainder of the night.

But it wasn’t an easy win for the Dinos. A stagnant offence on both sides of the field led to a gridlocked first half. In the first quarter, a 73-yard kickoff single from Niko DiFonte gave the Dinos their first point of the night. The slow start was later supplemented by two team safeties, but a 25-yard touchdown pass from St. FX at the end of the quarter brought the score to a measly 7–5 for the Atlantic visitors.

DiFonte continued his fantastic rookie season in the second quarter, firing off two 41-yard field goals to give the Dinos back their lead. But St. FX kicker Jonathan Heidebrech fought back with a 15-yard field goal and 85-yard kickoff single that brought the score to 11–11. Calgary finally made some ground at the end of the second quarter with a surprise catch from defensive lineman Joel Van Pelt, who landed a two-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Adam Sinagra. Late into the second quarter, the first touchdown of the night was a welcome addition from an unexpected source and would bring the Dinos to a tight 18–14 lead.

While Van Pelt has been a defensive force for the Dinos for the past three years, his touchdown gave Calgary the kind of forward offensive momentum that they would continue to utilize in the second half.

“It was a designed play,” Van Pelt said. “I just went down the field — there was no one there and my blocker ended up going away so I was left wide open.”

The second half of the night was the Jimmy Underdahl show. Coming off of injury and replacing Sinagra on the field, Underdahl made quick work of his opponents by firing off a deep 41-yard touchdown pass to second-year wide receiver Hunter Karl in the first two minutes of the quarter. He followed with an eight-yard pass to Jack McDonald who claimed the touchdown for the Dinos a minute and a half later. Jeshrun Antwi ran in a third touchdown to put Calgary up 39–17, and another kickoff single from DiFonte gave the team the extra point they needed to squander the confidence of St. FX with a score of 40–17 by the end of the third.

A series of penalty calls in the fourth quarter only extended the inevitable. After the Dinos’ third quarter offensive explosion, St. FX only earned one more touchdown on the night. A final one-yard touchdown run from Cole Kussman with the DiFonte convert in the last few minutes of the game solidified the win for Calgary, who ended the night up 50–24.

But for Harris, the work is far from over. The Dinos will now go on to face Laval University — a foe that they have met in battle multiple times before and been unable to best.

“Laval has always been one of the top programs for a long time now,” he said. “They’re well-coached with a lot of good football players.  We’re going to have a huge challenge ahead of us and hopefully we can be healthy and be able to give a strong game.”

There’s only one more win ahead for the Dinos on the road to hoisting the Vanier Cup for the first time since 1995. And while that’s already a major accomplishment on the season, the Dinos football team is still hungry for that final prize.

But tonight, there’s still time for celebration.

“I’m speechless,” Karl said. “Just way too excited right now. I’m just celebrating with all the boys.”

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