New OUA season features Greg Marshall coaching the Western Mustangs

McMaster Marauders and new head coach Stefan Ptaszek kickoff a new football season on Monday with a visit to the York University Lions. And the Marauders can expect the Lions will come out roaring. For the first time in five season, the Lions missed the Ontario University Athletics postseason last year and intend to correct that situation.

All ears are on the coach, as the Marauders prepare for their season opener against York University.
(Photo: Ron Bernardo)

McMaster will be just as fired up as the Lions. Although they made the post season after a 5-3 regular season record (York was 3-5), the Marauders’ year was terminated in the OUA semi-final against the Laurier Golden Hawks who went on to claim the Canadian university championship and 2005 Desjardins Vanier Cup.

Laurier’s success at the national level last season will carry over into this campaign and the Golden Hawks are favoured to pick up where they left off. The defending Vanier Cup champs with two straight Yates Cup titles and two consecutive undefeated regular seasons behind them, are firmly entrenched at the top of the conference heap, the position they wrestled away from the Marauders who had previously dominated the league.

But 2006 marks a season of change in OUA football. Welcome to the era of parity. A blossoming Ottawa Gee-Gees team, led by all-Canadian candidate quarterback Josh Sacobie, will look to build on a close semi-final loss last season. McMaster has rebuilt and retooled, with former Laurier offensive coordinator Ptaszek taking over a team that has explosive potential on both sides of the ball. In Windsor, a potent ground attack led by Canadian Interuniversity Sports rushing leader Daryl Stephenson will attempt to beat down opponents as head coach Mike Morencie looks to get his troops past the opening round of the playoffs.

Teams such as the Queen’s Golden Gaels and Guelph Gryphons, both possessing potential stars in quarterbacks Danny Brannagan and Justin Dunk, promise to be better and wouldn’t shock if they pulled out a few wins over the league’s elite. Like McMaster, Guelph also has a new man at the helm, Kyle Walters. If his name sounds familiar, Walters was assistant special team’s coach with the Hamilton Tiger Cats in 2003.
But the usual suspects will still have their say in 2006.

Despite losing Hec Crighton winner Andy Fantuz to graduation (and the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League), the Western Mustangs will be eager to send Larry Haylor out on a high. The winningest coach in CIS history is stepping down at the end of the season. Former Mustangs star, McMaster head coach, and CFL Coach of the Year Greg Marshall, the newest member of the Western coaching staff, has been appointed his successor. Do you think there will be any tickets available for the October 14 game when Marauders visit London?

Those that envision the decline of head coach Gary Jeffries’s Laurier empire might be a little premature in their assessment. Last year’s champs were certainly a veteran-laden bunch that relied on fifth-year seniors for success. But Jeffries has set the foundation and the Golden Hawks won’t sit back after getting a taste of what it means to be national champions.

Here’s a preview of this year’s OUA football teams.

2005 regular season record: 3-4-0-1 * (*OT loss)
2005 regular season standings: 6th
2005 playoff record: 0-1(Quarter-final loss to Ottawa, 35-21)
Head coach: Kyle Walters
Number of seasons as head coach with team / in CIS: 1st
Career regular season record: 0-0

The Guelph Gryphons have not advanced beyond the first round of the playoffs for the past two seasons, but they are looking to improve on that record this year as a new era for the program begins. Kyle Walters takes over the helm as head coach and Jason Kana will be the new offensive coordinator. The 2006 edition of the Gryphons will have a mixture of veteran leadership combined with young talent resulting from two years of solid recruiting.

“We have a veteran group on defence returning that will have to play very well,” says Walters. “Offensively, some young players will have to step up and contribute for this team to be successful.”

The Gryphon offense will be led by second-year quarterback Justin Dunk and dynamic receivers Dave McKoy and Jeff Keegan (the CIS leader with 936 receiving yards). Fifth-year receiver, Shane Bryans will also be counted on for veteran leadership. Last season, second-year tailback Brad Crawford showed promising signs and will be looking to fill the shoes of departed veteran Chris McIntyre. The Gryphons lost four starters on the offensive line from last year and will rely on third-year starter Ian Keleher for leadership.

Defensively, the Gryphons return 10 starters and the resurgence of defensive end Andy van KerreBroeck will take the place of the graduated Steve Mansell. Defensive end, Chris Hladich and defensive tackle Adam Wigdor, who represented the Gryphons at the East-West Bowl will anchor the defensive line. The linebacking corps is a very talented group that should have no less than seven players fighting for playing time. Trevor Small returns for a fifth year at free safety and will attempt to surpass his own Gryphon all-time interception mark of 17 picks.

Key returning players:
Justin Dunk – QB
Jeff Keegan – WR
Colin Dyer – LB
Chris Decker -LB
Shaun Arbuckle – DB
Alex Marshall – DT
Key recruits:
Nick Fitzgibbons, RB, 5’10”, 190lbs, Guelph.
Ryan Bomben, OL, 6’5″, 265lbs, Burlington.
Greg Zaremba, OL, 6’4″, 260 lbs, Welland.
Adam Dunk, LB, 6’2″, 215 lbs, Guelph.
Scott Puillandre, LB, 6’0″, 230lbs, Waterford.

2005 regular season record: 5-3
2005 regular season standings: 4th
2005 playoff record: 1-1
2005 playoff finish: OUA semi-finalists (43-21 loss to Laurier)
Head coach: Stefan Ptaszek
Number of seasons as head coach with team / in CIS: 1st
Career regular season record: 0-0

The Stefan Ptaszek era begins at McMaster and all the pieces are in place for the Marauders to return to the top of the competitive OUA conference. After a 2005 season that put the Mac offence amongst the country’s elite, the Marauders’
offensive stars should put up all-Canadian numbers. The 2005 Mac offence led the country in passing yards, while also ranking second all-time in Marauder history for passing yards (2394), third all-time in net offence (3966), and first in TD passes (20).

“What I’ve realized since coming to Mac is that the guys on our roster are not only great football players, but they’re great people as well,” says Ptaszek. “And after working with some of the veterans at this year’s Spring Camp and East West Bowl, I’m really excited about the things we’re going to be able to do on the football field this season.”

Quarterback Adam Archibald prepares in training camp.
(Photo: Ron Bernardo)

Seniors Adam Archibald (quarterback) and Jon Behie (slotback) will be the focal points of most opposing defences in 2006, in addition to second-year running back Jordan Kozina, who was one yard short of the OUA rookie rushing record last season (he finished with 1,191 yards). In seven games (regular season and playoffs) last year, Archibald averaged three touchdowns and 329 yards passing per game, both marks putting him atop the list of CIS quarterbacks.

Anchoring new defensive coordinator Greg Knox’s unit will be perhaps the deepest and strongest defensive line in the country. The line returns their top five players from the 2005 depth chart – all either fifth- or fourth-year seniors – including 2004 all-Canadians Jeff Robertshaw and Andrew Jones. Nate Finlay will team up with Jones in the middle to clog up opposing running games, while 2005 OUA all-star Nick Binder and Chris Van Zeyl will rotate with Robertshaw to provide some of the best pass rushing in the OUA. The line will be bolstered by the addition of blue-chip recruit Justin Glover, a 6’3”, 300-pound behemoth who Ptaszek says, “could be the next Andrew Jones.”

Key returning players:
Adam Archibald – QB
Kyle Koch – OL
Jordan Kozina – RB
Jesse Card – S
Eugene Boakye – LB
Andrew Jones – DT
Jeff Robertshaw – DE
Byron Dinter – HB

Key recruits:
Andre Sadeghian, RB, transfer from UBC, 6’0”, 224 lbs, Beamsville.
Kevin D’Hollander, WR, 6’5”, 200 lbs, London.
Justin Glover: DT, 6’3”, 300 lbs, Hamilton.

2005 regular season record: 6-2
2005 regular season standings: 3rd
2005 playoff record: 1-1
2005 playoff finish: OUA semi-finalists (18-10 loss to Western)
Head coach: Denis Piché
Number of seasons as head coach with team / in CIS: 4th
Career regular season record: 14-9-0-1
Career overall record (reg. season & playoffs): 16-12-0-1

Building on a breakthrough 2005 season that saw them finish third in the OUA with a semi-final appearance, the Gee-Gees addressed their greatest need in the off-season, bringing in a number of offensive and defensive linemen who, when mixed with the returning players, should form two of the most impressive lines in the country.

“The first three games are pivotal this year (home to Western, at Laurier, home to McMaster) as it will be the toughest stretch in the schedule for us by far,” says head coach Denis Piché.

Quarterback Josh Sacobie (6-4, 215 lbs, Fredericton, NB), the 2005-06 Ottawa Athlete of the Year, has established himself as one of the premier passers in the game, finishing second in Canada in passing yardage last year with over 2,100 yards and 18 TD passes, while running for over 450 yards and scoring five majors. To supplement the aerial attack, Ottawa is expecting big things from their ground game in 2006. Sparked by the return of Davie Masson (TB, 5-10, 240 lbs, Toronto) who missed last season due to an injury, the Gee-Gees anticipate that the ground game will improve this year. Second-year utility back Craig Bearss (6-1, 235 lbs, Kingston, ON) who averaged 5.6 yards per carry last year, is expected to be joined by top recruit Justin Hammond (TB, 5-11, 210 lbs, Waterdown) who should get several touches per game during the upcoming campaign. All of these players will be protected by arguably the best offensive line in Canada. All-Canadian Kevin Kelly (OL/C, 6-1, 310 lbs, Ottawa) will lead the hogs into battle in 2006.

Last year the Gee-Gees finished with the fourth best defense in Canada and this year, Ottawa is expected to improve on that finish. Granby native Sébastien Tetrault (DE, 6-5, 250 lbs) should partner up with third-year defensive end Dan Kennedy (6-4, 270 lbs, Sault Ste. Marie, ON) to create havoc up front. The Gee-Gees are also loaded with talent away from the trenches as linebackers Joe Barnes (LB, 6-0, 235 lbs, Stoney Creek) and Cheeler Lindor (LB, 5-114, 215 lbs, Ottawa) will once again team up with backs Anthony Plante-Ajah (DB, 5-10, 185 lbs, Ottawa) and Dan Hall (DB, 6-2, 180 lbs, Ottawa) to give opposing offences nightmares.

Key returning players:
Josh Sacobie – QB
Kevin Kelly – OL
Adam Nicolson – WR
Cheelor Lindor – LB
Joe Barnes – LB
Anthony Plante-Ajah – DB
Key recruits:
Sebastien Tetreault, DL
Marcel Samuel, WR
Mike Degagne, OL
Justin Hammond, RB
Jeremy Remus, DL
John Beck, LB

2005 regular season record: 3-5
2005 regular season standings: 7th
2005 playoff record: did not qualify
Head coach: Pat Sheahan
Number of seasons as head coach with team: 7th
Number of seasons as head coach in CIS: 18th (11 years with Concordia)
Career regular season record with team: 25-23-0
Career regular season record in CIS: 73-58-1
Career overall record with team (reg. season & playoffs): 29-26-0
Career overall record in CIS (reg. season & playoffs): 83-69-1

Queen’s Golden Gaels football looks to be in position for its first playoff berth since 2003 with strong blend of veterans and impact rookies. After graduating seven into the CFL over the past two seasons, the Gaels have reloaded and are ready to challenge the powers of the OUA.

Reigning OUA Rookie of the Year Danny Brannagan posted some impressive numbers as a freshman quarterback in 2005 (115/209 1860 yards 12 TD 10 Int), gaining some valuable on-field experience in the process. Senior receiver Brad Smith should be one of the better targets in the OUA this year after catching 42 passes for 772 yards and six touchdowns in 2005. Smith will be joined by returning receivers Rob Bagg and Scott Valberg, who combined for 39 catches for 597 yards and a touchdown in 2005. Running backs Mike Giffin (61 carries for 443 yards 2 TD) and Marty Gordon (62 carries for 428 yards 1 TD) will be reunited with Billy Burke again this year in the Queen’s backfield. Burke returns to the Gaels after a one year sabbatical with the Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League. The Gaels’ O-line will be the most experienced group to take the field at Queen’s in several years. Three-year starters Ryan Freeman, Sean O’Donnell and Cody Kennedy return for their senior years along with third-year guard J.P. Morgenstern, who impressed in 2005.

Queen’s defensive coordinator Pat Tracey has a good group of defenders to work with this year. The Queen’s D will be anchored by returning OUA all-star Ian Hazlett (48 solo tackles 2 sacks and a fumble recovery) at middle linebacker and seniors Adam Ross (20 solo tackles), DJ Mulholland (34 solo tackles) and Kevin Scott (eight solo tackles). The D-line will have good size, speed and depth this year with seniors Ross Corley (13 solo tackles), Mitch Carkner (6 solo tackles), Pat Corbin and Chris Manion leading the group but support will come from a talented group of younger players. Rebuilding the Queen’s secondary was a prime focus for the Gaels coaching staff this past off-season. Seniors Kirby Calvert, Matt Vickers and Taylor Morassutti will lead the Queen’s secondary, as well as sophomore phenom Jimmy Allin. The four combined for half of the team’s interception total in 2005.

Overall the Golden Gaels of 2006 gained immeasurable experience from a 2005 campaign that saw them play 4 of their first 5 games against teams that would finish the season in the playoffs. This year Queen’s will try to avoid a slow start with a schedule that sees them play two of their first three league games at home and their first four games against teams who finished 2005 with a combined record of 9-21.

Key returning players:
Danny Brannagan – QB
Brad Smith – IR
Sean O’Donnell – OL
Mike Giffin – RB
Ian Hazlett – LB
Adam Ross – LB
Ross Corley – DL
Key recruits:
Jimmy Therrien, RB, Montreal
Devan Sheahan, SB, Kingston
Colin Boyle, OL, Ottawa
Alex Daprato, DB, Toronto
Addison Rich, DB, Richview

2005 regular season record: 0-7-0-1 * (*OT loss)
2005 regular season standings: 10th
2005 playoff record: –
2005 playoff finish: did not qualify
Head coach: Steve Howlett
Number of seasons as head coach with team / in CIS: 4th
Career regular season record: 0-23-0-1
Career overall record (reg. season & playoffs): 0-23-0-1

The 2005 football season proved a progressive step in the rebuilding of Varsity Blues football. Heartbreakingly close, back-to-back losses to Waterloo and York kept the Blues out of the win column, but a definite improvement in the team’s on-field performance gave justifiable optimism for 2006. The Blues hope to build on the positive experiences from 2005 as they continue their return to winning form.

“We are definitely an improved team this year,” says head coach Steve Howlett. “Three years ago, we were starting eight freshmen of offence, but that group has remained together to give a solid foundation of experience. There are a few question marks on defence, but we expect to see continued growth in 2006.”

Leading the offence is third-year running back Marc Gaudett, who had 165 carries for 822 yards last year, both figures ranking as the second-highest single-season mark in team history. A training-camp battle for the quarterbacking duties is brewing between third-year pivots Mark Stinson and David Hamilton. Each amassed over 800 yards in passing last season.

After an injury-plagued 2005 season, the coaching staff will look to fourth-year defensive lineman Michael Goncalves to fortify the defence. Fourth-year veterans Mike Tutty and George Polyzois will anchor the defensive backfield.
Graduation had little impact on the team, leaving a talented and experienced group of veterans to complement a promising recruiting class. The 2006 season will also be one of transition. To accommodate the construction of a new, on-campus stadium, home football games will be played at Birchmount Stadium in Scarborough, which previously housed Varsity Blues football for the 2002 season.

Key returning players:
Marc Gaudett – RB
Cory Kennedy – WR
Tony Mammoliti – WR
John Gibson – OL
Michael Goncalves – DL
Mike Tutty – DB
George Polyzois – DB
Key recruits:
Tyler Daly, RB, Port Perry.
Derek Bachelor, DB, Mississauga.
Joe Capiello, DL, Toronto.
Matt Beauchemp, LB, Winnipeg.
Scott Smith, LB, Toronto.

2005 regular season record: 2-6
2005 regular season standings: 9th
2005 playoff record: did not qualify
Head coach: Chris Triantafilou
Number of seasons as head coach with team / in CIS: 9th
Career regular season record: 28-35-1
Career overall record (reg. season & playoffs): 31-41-1

Retention and growth is the name of the game this season for Warrior football. After graduating only one player from last year’s team, the Warriors have retained many key individuals that they will rely on in 2006 to improve on the 2-6 non-playoff season from one year ago. Triantafilou has assumed the role of Offensive Coordinator and has brought back Rob McMurren as the Defensive Coordinator and Brad Winder as Special Teams Coordinator.

The Warrior offense is looking to improve all facets of its game. Fifth-year quarterback Jon Morbey will lead the charge with help coming from fifth-year 2005 all-Canadian tackle Chris Best and fourth-year running back Travis Gellatly. Defensively, the Warriors have the luxury of a returning front seven, who will work to improve against the run while pressuring QBs more often. Leading the charge on defence will be fifth-year corner Drew Haynes and fourth-year ends Trevor Derreck and Darren Kisinger.

Key returning players:
Chris Best – OT
Jon Morbey – QB
Travis Gellatly – RB
Drew Haynes – CB
Trevor Derreck – DE
Darren Kisinger – DE
Paul Kowalik – LB
Key recruits:
Lucas Balch, QB, 6’1 190lbs, Komoka, Ont.
Evan Martin, QB, 5’11 195lbs, Kitchener.
Dustin Zender, WR, 6’1 175lbs, Kitchener.
John Boonstra, DB, 5’11 175lbs, Waterdown.
Rob Kowalik, LB, 6’2 230lbs, Waterloo.
Ben Britton, DL, 5’11 280lbs, Hamilton.

2005 regular season record: 6-1-0-1 * (indicates OT loss)
2005 regular season standings: 2nd
2005 playoff record: 1-1
2005 playoff finish: Yates Cup finalists (29-11 loss to Laurier)
Head coach: Larry Haylor
Number of seasons as head coach with team / in CIS: 22nd
Career regular season record: 141-23-4
Career overall record (reg. season & playoffs): 172-43-4

Riding Hec Crighton winner Andy Fantuz, the Western Mustangs appeared in the OUA championship game in 2005 – the Yates Cup – falling to the eventual Vanier Cup champions, Laurier.
With the departure of the record-setting wide receiver to the Saskatchewan Roughriders and defensive back Leron Mitchell to the Toronto Argonauts, the Mustangs will look to all-star running back Randy McAuley and former University of Toledo (NCAA) transfer quarterback Michael Faulds, along with East-West Bowl defensive stalwarts Tom Dolezel, Matt Carapella and Nick Kordic to lead the way in 2006.

This year also marks the final season in the historic career of Larry Haylor – the all-time winningest coach in CIS history. He steps down at the end of this season and will be succeeded by Greg Marshall, who serves as an offensive coach in 2006.

“Well, on paper I think everyone thinks we look good at this time of year,” Haylor says. “This is always a time of cautious optimism. Ottawa is the most athletic team we face,” he adds. “They present an immediate significant challenge. We’re playing at their stadium in Ottawa. It’s a tough start to the season. But given Ottawa and their ranking we have to be ready to play – and play well.”

Key returning players:
Randy McAuley – RB
Michael Faulds – QB
Ryan Clutterbuck – TE
Dave Clayton – WR
Derek Schiavone – P/PK
Tom Dolezel – DL
Nick Kordic – DB
Matthew Carapella – DB
Key recruits:
Miguel Wason, WR, Brantford.
Anton Bennett, RB, Toronto.
Lucas Powers, OL, Waterdown.
James Morrissey, QB, London.
Chris Greaves, DL, Mississauga.
Elliot Shields, DL, Calgary.
Rob Hennessy, LB, Lindsay.
Conor Elliot, DB, London.

2005 regular season record: 8-0
2005 regular season standings: 1st
2005 playoff record: 4-0
2005 playoff finish: Vanier Cup champions
Head coach: Gary Jeffries
Number of seasons as head coach with team / in CIS: 4th
Career regular season record: 22-1-1
Career overall record (reg. season & playoffs): 30-3-1

The 2005 season was a year to remember for Laurier. The Golden Hawks picked up their second national championship in school history. Laurier was unbeaten – a rare feat – in the largest league in the country, won a Yates Cup, and a national championship in a stunning come-from-behind performance to beat the powerhouse Saskatchewan Huskies 24-23 with a last-minute field goal from Brian Devlin.

“The focus hasn’t changed or the objective: one game at a time, that’s always been our strategy,” says head coach Gary Jeffries. “The Golden Hawks will build on strengths, depth and a diligent group of rookies, who will get an opportunity to exhibit their talent.”

The Laurier Golden Hawks will be missing 15 key players, including five CIS all-Canadians, nine OUA all-stars, and two athletes who are now in the CFL. Despite the high turnover (11 returning starters, 13 departing), there is lots of optimism for the future. Young Guns Vince Luciani and Ian Noble will compete at quarterback with veteran Jamie Partington. Andy Baechler and Dante Luciani, both key components to last season’s run are back at wide receiver.
And almost the entire linebacking corps has returned, including standouts Justin Phillips, Yannick Carter and Jesse Alexander.

A solid group of individuals who have benefited from a year of experience in back-up roles will be out to challenge for bragging rights. An impressive recruiting class will benefit from Jeffries, who has been OUA Coach of the Year for the past three seasons. Vanier champion quarterback Ryan Pyear, who powered the slick Laurier offence in recent years, will continue to call the shots from the sidelines as the new offensive coordinator.

Key returning players:
Andy Baechler – WR
Dante Luciani – WR/QB
Ryan Lynch – RB
Kyle Weston – OT
Dave Montoya – DE
Yannick Carter – LB
Justin Phillips – LB
Jesse Alexander – LB
Key recruits:
Taureen Allen, WR, Mississauga,.
Kyle Sanderson, OL, transfer from McMaster, Peterborough.
Karl McCartney, LB, Aurora.
Chima Ihekwoaba, DE, Burlington.

2005 regular season record: 4-4
2005 regular season standings: 6th
2005 playoff record: 0-1
2005 playoff finish: OUA quarter-finalists (49-19 loss to McMaster)
Head coach: Mike Morencie
Number of seasons as head coach with team / in CIS: 9th
Career regular season record: 18-38-1
Career overall record (reg. season & playoffs): 19-41-1

Coming off a 4-4 season and a berth in the OUA quarter-finals, the Windsor Lancers are knocking on the door of the elite teams in the OUA. Coach Morencie’s squad will return 21 of 24 starters from 2005. The key departure is standout receiver and two-time CIS First Team all-Canadian Arjei Franklin. Franklin was taken 19th overall in the CFL Draft by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and will be greatly missed in the receiving corps.

On offence, the focus continues to be on Daryl Stephenson, the 2005 CIS rushing leader with 1,306 yards and a first-team all-Canadian. A pre-season candidate for the Hec Crighton Award, Stephenson will be joined in the backfield by rookie Nick Romain, the Canadian Junior Football League Offensive Player of the Year with the Windsor AKO Fratmen in 2005. The pair is expected to provide an outstanding 1-2 punch in the backfield. At quarterback, fifth-year senior Jon Dent will be challenged by a pair of outstanding transfers. Jorel Petree, a star high school quarterback at Utica Eisenhower in Michigan and a transfer from Alfred State will join Dan Lumley, a former transfer from the University of Kentucky to battle Dent for the starting position. Lumley, who is also an outstanding punter, will see action in a variety of fronts.

The Lancer defense will be anchored by fifth-year seniors Alan Weekes, Billy Moysiuk and Sasha Glavic. Weekes, who has been a dominating force at tackle for the Lancers, is joined by 310-pound Caleb Bergner. Entering his second year, Bergner along with Weekes will be expected to wreak havoc on opposing offences. At linebacker, the Lancers return three of four starters including senior Bill Moysiuk at outside linebacker. Second- year inside backer John Celestino will look to join Moysiuk as a force in the middle for Windsor. In the defensive backfield, Sasha Glavic, a 2005 OUA all-star, has returned for his final season following a try-out with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and will be the leader of this young group. He will be joined by Matt Regis, a terrific transfer from Vanier College who is expected to make an immediate impact with the Blue and Gold.

Key returning players:
Daryl Stephenson – RB
Sasha Glavic – DB
Matt Morencie – OT
Bill Moysiuk – LB
Alan Weekes – DT
Key recruits:
Jorel Petree, QB, Utica, Mich.
Dan Lumley, QB, Windsor.
Nick Romain, RB, Windsor.
Matt Regis, DB, Montreal.

2005 regular season record: 3-5
2005 regular season standings: 8th
2005 playoff record: did not qualify
Head coach: Tom Gretes
Number of seasons as head coach with team / in CIS: 5th
Career regular season record: 17-23
Career overall record (reg. season & playoffs): 18-28

For the first time in five years, the York Lions failed to advance to the post season in 2005, finishing a point shy of the final playoff berth. In only their second game, the team suffered a huge loss, losing all-Canadian running back Andre Durie to a season-ending knee injury. Despite the setback, the squad won two of its next three games, including an emotional come-from-behind victory in week three, when they scored two majors late in the fourth quarter and one in overtime to capture the 36th Red and Blue Bowl with a 40-33 win over Toronto.

Quarterback Bart Zemanek had his finest season as a Lion finishing fifth in the OUA in passing yards and second in completions. He also set York records for completions and attempts in a single season.

“We had a great off season, making personnel changes and bringing in the best recruiting class we’ve had in years,” says head coach Tom Gretes. “I think the key for us this year will be consistency. We have a great rookie class to complement our returnees, and as a team, we are cautiously optimistic that if things come together, we can surprise a lot of people.”

The team looks to return to the post season in 2006, without the services of the injured Durie, who will assume the duties of running back coach while rehabbing his leg. With the absence of Durie and departure of graduate fullback Bryan Wheatle, fifth-year tailback Pearce Akpata will handle the lion’s share of the running game after finishing 2005 with 99 yards on 16 carries.

Zemanek returns to lead the offence in his fourth season, but will be challenged for the play-calling duties by Gee-Gees transfer Mike Crabtree. Two-time OUA All-Star Ricardo Hudson rejoins the Lions for his final season after trying out for the Calgary Stampeders (CFL) this past summer.

On defence, the team will have to fill the void left by York’s Male Athlete of the Year Ricky Foley, who led the team in tackles, after signing with the BC Lions (CFL). In addition to the loss of Foley, the team will also be without DB Spencer Dawe and LB Greg Maciaszczyk, who finished second and third in tackles last year with 31.5 and 30 respectfully. The defensive line is anchored by Sean Simms and Janson Kenny. Simms led the team with five sacks last year, while Kenny was named an OUA All-Star after finishing with 20 tackles, two sacks and two interceptions.

Key returning players:
Bart Zemanek – QB
Pearce Akpata – RB
Ricardo Hudson – WR
Jocelyn Courcelles – SB
Sean Simms – DE
Raphael Osei – DB
Geoff Gordon – LB
Janson Kenny – DE
Robin Legault – S
Key recruits:
Steve Hughes, WR, Welland.
Bryce Denisko, SB, Niagara Falls.
George Gretes, QB, Toronto..
Boris Radulovic, DL, Toronto.
Chris Russell, LB, Toronto.