Evan Daum, Canada West Communications
CALGARY – When it comes to head coaching storylines, there's no better matchup in Canada West than the UBC Thunderbirds and Calgary Dinos on the gridiron.
The rivalry will once again be the showcased this Saturday when the two teams meet in the 81st Hardy Cup at McMahon Stadium (1 p.m. MST).
For UBC, head coach Blake Nill is headed to his 10th consecutive Hardy Cup and third straight with the T-Birds after leaving Calgary three seasons ago for the UBC gig.
On the other sideline, Dinos head coach Wayne Harris, who in just his third season at the helm has accumulated an overall record of 26-5, heads into another Hardy Cup as the newly minted Canada West Coach of the Year.
While much has been made over the last three seasons about Nill's departure to UBC, and the job his successor Harris has done to leave his mark on the CW powerhouse, both coaches are only one piece – albeit big ones – in the complex puzzles that are successful football teams.
For fifth-year Dinos offensive lineman Justin Filippelli, who's played for both coaches while at Calgary, regardless of the matchup or the men leading their respective teams, Saturday is business as usual.
"It'll be my fifth one, so it's just another game. We want to leave our mark and we've got a lot of old guys here and we just want to come out on top," said Filippelli, who's been a big part of Calgary's 10-year streak of Hardy Cup appearances.
"It's the culture that even coach Nill built and that coach Harris keeps evolving and putting his stamp on. It's just about taking it one game at a time and really it's just about the next game, because nothing else really matters."
Treating the game just like any other, however, isn't easy to do from the outside when you look at the recent history between the two programs. This year marks the first time in Canada West history that the same two teams will meet in three consecutive Hardy Cups.
Last season saw Calgary outlast UBC 46-43 in the highest scoring Hardy Cup ever, while two years ago UBC derailed the Dinos' perfect season with a 34-26 victory, en route to winning the Vanier Cup.
While Calgary comes into the home contest after earning the conference regular season crown, UBC is far from an underdog in the Hardy Cup rubber match.
After losing to the Dinos 31-17 Week 5 of the regular season in Vancouver, UBC hasn't looked back, earning four consecutive wins, including last weekend in their 28-21 Hardy Cup semifinal win at home over the Regina Rams.
Calgary, on the other hand, heads into the game after a 39-22 win over the Alberta Golden Bears last weekend.
"To be honest, I don't see it like that at all," said Nill when asked if Saturday was a grudge match between the two sides. "Of course there's a rivalry [and] of course we're here to try and be successful on the field. We understand the quality of the opponent we're facing. We understand the history of the program we're facing. I don't see it as a trifecta – don't be surprised if the same two teams are here next year."
As for Harris, who's looking to claim his second Frank Tindall Trophy as national coach of the year later this month, you can set the storylines aside. This weekend is about a tough test against a team playing its best football of the season at the right time.
"Definitely it's been a great rivalry," said Harris of facing UBC yet again. "Coach Nill always does a great job preparing his football teams and preparing them for playoff football."
You can watch the 81st Hardy Cup by tuning into the Canada West Football Showcase (SaskTel channels 48/348 HD, TELUS channels 998/9998 HD, and BellMTS channel 1802 HD), or by watching online at Canada West TV.
NOTES: This is Calgary's 23rd trip to the Hardy Cup, while UBC is playing in their 20th Hardy Cup…The winner of Saturday's Hardy Cup hosts the winner of Saturday's Dunsmore Cup (RSEQ championship game) between Montreal and Laval in the Mitchell Bowl (Saturday, Nov. 18)…CW teams are 19-3 all-time when hosting a national semifinal.