CALGARY – The Hardy Cup will be handed out at McMahon Stadium for the 10th time in 11 years, and the University of Calgary Dinos will play in their 11th straight Canada West championship game after defeating the University of Manitoba Bisons 37-13 Saturday afternoon.
It was anything but a sure thing for the first seed Dinos after the first half, as both defenses played extremely well and the Dinos were up just seven points at halftime. However, a dominating second half for the Dinos, where they would outscore the Bisons 20-2, would help the Dinos reach the Hardy Cup once again.
The Dinos will host the winner of the Saskatchewan-UBC semifinal next Saturday, Nov. 10, with kickoff at 1 p.m., looking for their third straight Canada West title.
Dinos quarterback Adam Sinagra tossed for 368 yards and three touchdowns on the day, but all that came after a wild opening 27 minutes.
Both teams got off to a shaky start offensively. The Dinos, uncharacteristically, had three straight two-and-outs to start the game, while the Bisons started with an interception thrown by quarterback Des Catellier, and a missed 47-yard field goal. Meanwhile, the opening seven minutes of the game also featured an Aaron Statz interception-then-fumble for the Dinos, who maintained possession, and a high snap that caused punter Niko DiFonte some problems, costing the Dinos field position.
The Bisons would finally open the scoring midway through the first quarter with a 22-yard field goal by Brad Mikoluff, which was set up by a tremendous one-handed catch down the sidelines by Trysten Dyce.
In a matchup between two of the better offensive squads in Canada West, including the Dinos who led Canada West in most offensive categories, the first quarter was surprisingly dominated by the defenses, with specials playing a role as well including a crazy play with a blocked Dinos punt that was picked up behind the line of scrimmage by Boston Rowe and run for a first down.
With both offences managing just a combined 113 yards of offence and four first downs, the Bisons took a 3-0 lead into the second quarter.
On their first drive of the second, the Dinos offensive unit would finally gain some traction, with most of the success coming on one 45-yard Tyson Philpot reception. The drive stalled in Bisons territory, but Niko DiFonte nailed a 44-yard field goal to tie the game at 3-3.
With both offences continuing to struggle well into the second quarter, the first touchdown finally came on a special teams play. With Manitoba punting deep in their own end, Dinos' receiver Alex Basilis came through clean to block the punt, then pounced on it in the end zone to put the Dinos ahead 10-3.
Manitoba answered right back on the next offensive series. Jamie Ybarra took over for Catellier, and on just his second throw of the game, hooked up with Dylan Schrot for 38-yard touchdown.
With less than two minutes left in the first half, Sinagra finally got the offence on track, finding Jalen Philpot all by his lonesome for a 42-yard major, and Calgary took a 17-10 lead into the half.
A safety, a 46-yard DiFonte field goal, and a 36-yard TD to Hunter Karl extended Calgary's lead to 29-10 less than halfway through the third. Sinagra iced the win midway through the fourth when he found Tyson Philpot wide open on a blown coverage in the Manitoba defence for a 73-yard score.
Mikoluff's 30-yard field goal late in the third marked the only points the Bisons could muster after halftime.
"It was full team effort," said Dinos Head Coach Wayne Harris. "The defence kept us in there in the beginning when our offence struggled. Then our offence started to get things rolling in the second half.
"Overall our defence was holding their own all game, and we needed them to play big at this time of year. Playoff football is all about defence."
The Philpot brothers both had huge games for the Dinos, with Tyson having a game-high 142 yards receiving as well as a touchdown while Jalen added 72 yards and a touchdown of his own.
Grant McDonald and Boston Rowe had very strong outings in the middle of the Dinos defense, with McDonald finishing with seven tackles, and Rowe finishing with six, with 1.5 of those being tackles for a loss.
Dylan Schrot had a nice game for Manitoba, catching six passes for 58 yards and scoring Manitoba's lone touchdown of the game, while defensive lineman Derek Dufault had a dominant performance, racking up six tackles and three sacks.