Ben Matchett, Dinos Communications
CALGARY – The Saskatchewan Huskies forced seven turnovers and kept the high-powered Calgary offence at bay to capture their first Hardy Cup championship since 2006 Saturday with a 43-18 win over the previously undefeated Dinos at McMahon Stadium.
Canada West player of the year Adam Sinagra threw four interceptions on the day, while fifth-year Calgarian Tyler Chow rumbled 24 times for 222 yards and a pair of majors as the Huskies handed the Dinos their first and only loss of 2018, completing a pair of unlikely playoff wins away from home in the Canada West playoffs.
Saskatchewan (7-3) will face No. 1 Western (10-0) in the U SPORTS Mitchell Bowl next Saturday in London, Ont., with the winner advancing to the Vanier Cup.
A fellow senior, quarterback Kyle Siemens, completed 18 of 27 passes for 263 yards and a TD. Huskies Head Coach Scott Flory knew his fifth-year players were going to be key if they were going to take down the Dinos, and he was thrilled with their effort.
"Coming out of our last loss UBC, the message was that our best players, our fifth-years, have to be our best players," said the second-year Saskatchewan bench boss. "Those guys got the message. The guys believe in them, and they love them, and they play for them.
"I believe in these guys all the time – I have nothing but the utmost faith in them because they believe in themselves and each other. We're a team, and we preach that all the time. These guys just keep fighting."
The first quarter was a harbinger of things to come. After the Huskies' opening drive of the game stalled due to a holding penalty, Alex Basilis made the first big play of the game on special teams, blocking his second punt in two weeks to give the Dinos the ball in Huskies territory.
However, on Calgary's very first offensive play of the game, Sinagra was intercepted by Josh Hagerty, giving the ball right back to the Huskies.
Early in the second quarter, Saskatchewan was the first to breakthrough on offence. Siemens found an open Colten Klassen for a 53-yard gain down to the Calgary one-yard line, and Klassen finished it off with a one-yard scamper into the end zone as Saskatchewan took an 8-1 lead.
Calgary answered back on its next drive, with a five play, 75-yard drive of their own. Three straight completions from Sinagra to Dallas Boath set the Dinos up deep in Huskie territory. On a third and one on the Huskie nine yard line, Jeshrun Antwi took it all the way in for a nine yard score, leveling the score up at 8-8.
The Huskies added a 28-yard Sean Stenger field goal before their defense would make a huge play to help the Huskies take a two-score lead late in the second quarter. Nelson Lokombo intercepted an errant Sinagra throw and took it all the way back to the Dinos' 1-yard line. Chow punched it in from there, giving the Huskies an 18-8 lead.
Calgary's best drive of the game came next, with Sinagra leading a scoring drive that culminated in a 30-yard touchdown strike to Hunter Karl, giving the Dinos some momentum heading into the half trailing by just three, 18-15.
A missed opportunity for Calgary came on the Dinos' first drive of the third quarter, with Sinagra unable to connect with Karl on a promising play downfield. Calgary's defence got the Dinos the ball back after they punted, with Deane Leonard picking off Siemens near the end zone to stop a promising Saskatchewan drive.
Again, though, the Dinos gave it right back, with Thomas Whiting intercepting Sinagra. Carter Dahl was the recipient of a Siemens pass that put the Huskies up 25-15, and after a Niko DiFonte field goal it was still a seven-point game heading into the fourth.
For the third time, the Dinos turned the ball over on the first play of a drive when Jalen Philpot gained first down yardage only to fumble, and once again the Huskies made them pay. Chow continued to gouge the Dinos' defense, running 23 yards for the major. Calgary was unable to put any more points on the board, and another Stenger field goal, plus a late Adam Machart rushing touchdown, made the final score 43-18.
"(The turnovers) make it difficult on the defense, and it also makes it difficult on the offence, because they can't get any sort of rhythm going," said Dinos Head Coach Wayne Harris. "When we did have rhythm, we were able to move the ball, but we stalled too many times and didn't get the ball in the end zone. That's part of playoff football – Saskatchewan had a great game today.
"We felt good at halftime, but we just didn't get anything done."
Sinagra finished 23-for-36 for 286 yards and a touchdown, with Dallas Boath hauling in 11 catches for 143 yards on the day.
Colton Klassen had a tremendous day for the Huskies, finishing with 148 yards of total offence as well as a rushing touchdown. While the whole Huskies defense was tremendous, Payton Hall was particularly good, finishing with 7 tackles, as well as a forced fumble.
CGY – Niko DiFonte 70-yard punt single, 14:02, 1-0 CGY
SSK – Colton Klassen 1-yard TD run (Sean Stenger convert), 3:27, 7-1 SSK
SSK – Sean Stenger 72-yard kickoff single, 3:30, 8-1 SSK
CGY – Jeshrun Antwi 9-yard TD run (Niko DiFonte convert), 10:55, 8-8
SSK – Sean Stenger 28-yard FG, 10:55, 11-8 SSK
SSK – Tyler Chow 1-yard TD run (Sean Stenger convert), 13:41, 18-8 SSK
CGY – Hunter Karl 30-yard TD pass from Adam Sinagra (Niko DiFonte convert), 14:51, 18-15 SSK
SSK – Carter Dahl 10-yard TD pass from Kyle Siemens (Sean Stenger convert), 11:25, 25-15 SSK
CGY – Niko DiFonte 45-yard FG, 14:37, 25-18 SSK
SSK – Tyler Chow 23-yard TD run (Sean Stenger convert), 1:31, 32-18 SSK
SSK – Sean Stenger 73-yard kickoff single, 1:34, 33-18 SSK
SSK – Sean Stenger 42-yard FG, 8:54, 36-18 SSK
SSK – Adam Machart 1-yard TD run (Sean Stenger convert), 14:45, 43-18 SSK