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Kickoff XVI: The Battle of Alberta

By Rodrigo Verney, September 6 2023—

This season opener saw many of the old mistakes that plagued the Dinos for the entirety of last season despite some big changes to the team. Regardless of their best efforts to reorganize a new team with a young but promising quarterback, it wasn’t enough to stop the charging Golden Bears from the University of Alberta. The game closed with a devastating 33-9 score for our university rivals. However, it is not time to rule them out just yet. The future does look promising if they manage to intertwine their new pieces a bit more.

Kickoff started with a sense of hope — a new chapter dawned on the Dinos after the departure of Matteo Spoletini, the former quarterback and the replacement, Dom Britton. If this name isn’t familiar to you, it’s time to add it to your vocabulary. The Calgary-born prodigy is a former Canadian Junior Football League (CJFL) Champion and a welcomed breath of fresh air to the roster. 

“Dom’s a big, mobile quarterback with a strong arm. He’s a proven winner. We really like the way he distributes the ball, and we think he will be a great addition to our program,” said Head Coach Wayne Harris in an interview with the Calgary Sun.

Unfortunately, big expectations breed a duty to deliver. Long-time Dinos fans knew that this match would be a trial to help identify if the new pieces were working well — not only among themselves but among their coaches as well. Sadly, there appeared to be some underlying issues that led to their poor performance overall. 

The first quarter was a mix of solid short plays and good rushing yards from the Dinos that were undermined by a 70-yard touchdown in the last two minutes of play. The Dinos’ defensive strategy is a problem that has to be remedied as soon as possible. Even arguing that the Golden Bears made use of excellent screens to clear the path still doesn’t address the fact that the defence was not quick enough to adjust to this problem — seeing that this wasn’t the only 70-yard touchdown in that game. 

At that point, the game was at 17-3 after a 37-yard kick by Vince Lombardi broke the cold streak for the Dinos. The team was able to force a safety and got two more on the board. Britton led an incredible offensive effort that almost resulted in a late half touchdown. However, that dream got cut due to a U of A takeaway. The Golden Bears led 17-5 at the half. 

The second half was marked by some punts from both teams and two other Golden Bears takeaways. The kickoff game closed with a 33-9 loss but was truly over prior to that. The game was filled with long passes that kept getting intercepted and having to rely on exhaustive rushing yards that got the job done but at a high price. 

That isn’t to undermine Britton’s performance. The former CJFL champion showed that he possesses all of the qualities that make up a great quarterback. His quick reactions and his powerful arm proved to be a deadly combination that led to some great plays with his brother Ben Britton. His leadership skills can’t be analyzed just yet. It was clear from the game that he wasn’t quite comfortable with the designated plays and his teammates yet. Especially, with 6,762 pair of eyes looking at him.

“Dom is playing well. He is still trying to learn a new level of football right now. It’s a big learning curve transitioning from junior to university level. I get a lot of confidence that he will be a great quarterback for us in the future,” said Coach Harris after the game.

Photo by Daman Singh

Overall, the problem seemed to be centred around a better understanding of the players’ capabilities, a stronger chemistry between the quarterback and receivers and a greater understanding of the coach-player relationship. All are common problems among a young team. 

Turning this situation around will take time and constant effort. Fortunately, the team has a lot of both. This squad is looking at great prospects that could turn into great names in the future. As always, we will have to allow time to follow its course and hope that the squad can find a good rhythm to make it to the playoffs. 

The Dinos are headed to UBC to face off against the Thunderbirds on Saturday.

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