By Rodrigo Verney, December 16 2022—
This edition of the Canada West playoffs will be missing one very important name in its brackets as the University of Calgary Dinos were not able to make it to postseason play. What appeared to be just a simple bad start to the team’s season became one of the worst records in Dinos’ history. Losing to relatively weaker teams due to an offence that simply wasn’t able to find itself for the longest part of the season. To better understand the major factors that contributed to this lacklustre season, it is necessary to go back to where it all began.
The first two games of the season were a devastating display in an almost prophetic light of how the season would unfold. Both saw a defeat coming by more than a 20-point lead, with kickoff being an unforgivable 39-point loss. Both games told almost the same story — an offence that couldn’t find itself having to deal with an ever-pressing opposing team that was able to make plays, run the ball, and make the most out of their possessions.
The middle part of the season was a bit better. Even though they weren’t able to beat their opposition, they reduced the difference on the scoreboard. This came from a mixture of different aspects. Vince Triumbari’s spectacular performance throughout the season has to be among the top reasons, generating points and saving the offence from even behind his comfortable kicking range.
Their only win came in to close a six-game losing streak. Their hunger for a win on the board translated well into a 13-point lead against the University of Alberta Golden Bears. The win can be credited to a good offence and an even greater defence, with three players scoring a sack each. Truly a problem for a losing U of A who struggled to maintain a good offensive rhythm.
“Offensively, we were able to sustain drives and play well. Defensively, we forced a lot of two-and-outs, which we’ve struggled with at times this season,” said Head Coach Wayne Harris. “Seeing the progress from a lot of guys in many areas was really encouraging.”
Other problems would arise after that game as the Dinos quickly fell back after a devastating 30-7 loss against the University of Regina Rams. A hard, but comprehensible loss after so many injured players and roster changes. It is complicated to expect the same level of production when key players have to be so suddenly replaced. The same story can be said about their last game on April 29 against the, now almost Vanier Cup champions, the University of Saskatchewan Huskies team.
This chapter in the Dinos football book was shorter than what we came to expect so far. However, praise has to go out to some star players this season. Daniel Sananes made incredible passes and took incredible and necessary decisions to kickstart the offence whenever they needed. Triumbari had a great season in terms of scoring with precision from his extended range. All of the defensive linemen should be praised given the defensive prowess that they became during this season, creating opportunities for the offence and disrupting threatening passes that could have been a serious problem for them to deal with.
The rookie Chris MacLean proved to be the top conference kicker, getting named CW All-Star and making his way into first-team All-Canadians as well. He finished the season with an average of 46.5 yards per kick, and also got the incredible mark of almost 40 per cent of his kicks breaking 50-plus yards this season. All of this while having to substitute his teammate in the few weeks before the end of the season.
“This is a new group and I am very encouraged by the talent we have on our team. We will need to have a great winter in the weight room to gain the strength and size to compete at this level,” said head coach Wayne Harris in a statement to the Gauntlet. “The experience our team gained this year is very valuable. Everyone knows what it will take to return to our winning ways and is prepared to make the commitment to achieve those goals.”
A winning season entails much more than just playing the games and ranking higher than everyone else. It’s about the stories that those games presented and the ability to seek out the players that deserve to be recognized. In that spirit of learning from this season, the coaching staff would benefit from investing in the few key players that were presented here and that really proved themselves. Every team knows that they can’t get better if they only work on their strengths — they also have to face their weaknesses.