Pigskin passers prepared to play

For most University of Calgary students, the month of August brings the end of summer parties and last minute trips out of town. For the admirable men of the Dinos football team, the month of August brought sweat, blood, pain, exhaustion and, of course, a little bit of fun.

The boys endured their pre-season training camp Aug. 20-27, including two-a-day practices, never-ending meetings and all types of weather. The week culminated with the annual alumni game which was great entertainment for all. For the first time in seven years, the varsity team defeated the alumni with a 17-14 margin.

This year’s team has many new faces. On offence, Mike McPherson and Nathan Belere are being groomed to be quarterback once fifth-year Charles Guedo retires at the end of this season. Chris Nagy, Matt Hale and Dave Simpson are three transfer students who will help cushion the strong returning offensive receiving core. New addition Chris Morrison performed tremendously at camp and adds extra weight to the offensive line.

On what’s known as the “dark side” (or defence), new linebackers Duncan McLean and Loukas Stavropolous will join ranks with a great starting line. Stavropolous was not able to participate in training camp due to a broken leg suffered while competing for the Alberta Provincial Under 19 team in July. Kyle Sorrenson and Cody Wilson are impressive defensive backs learning the all the right moves while Ruben Fresen, Conrad Paley and Tom Higgens are turning heads with their bold attempts at proving they belong on the intimidating defensive line.

The Dinos return 17 starters from last year’s team. Key offensive losses include running back Jeff Williams, offensive lineman Mitch Hoshka and fullback Jess Butterfield. However, look for Butterfield on the sidelines helping the new first year players.

Defensively, key losses are linebacker Jeff Montgomery, defensive backs Damony Simmonds and Dan Zubkowski and safety-kicker Ryan Saurette.

Key returnees are Guedo, slot back Joel Ford (44 receptions for 697 yards), Canada West All-Star center and Canadian Interuniversity Sport Second-Team All-Canadian Evan Haney and All-Canadian offensive tackle Richard Yalowsky.

Though Ford will make his fans wait a few weeks for his return due to a concussion suffered during an off-season practice, he will be eligible to play early in the season. Guard Tim O’Neill, who attended the Edmonton Eskimos training camp, also returns. O’Neill was selected 22nd overall by Edmonton and played in two pre-season contests.

Defensively, the team returns senior Dan Federkeil (39 tackles, two quarterback sacks), Matt Hiduk, David Gruninger (28 tackles, one pass interception) and Byron Barrenechea (22 tackles).

“We’ve got a great balance of very talented players–both returning and new–this season that makes our defense very powerful,” Asssistant Head Coach Stevens explained. “[Federkeil] returns healthy and in great shape. We’ve got Ben Hutchins, who previously played both offense and defense and now plays exclusively defense. Ben will be a huge contributor on our defensive line. Dave Gruninger is also returning and he is an impressive leader on the field. He has a great attitude and is very aggressive.”

Slot back Andrew Lunse and Drew Carpenter rejoin the team after missing last season due to illness and injury respectively. Carpenter was the team’s leading receiver in 2004 but has been moved to cornerback for the upcoming season.

“This year we tried a new type of training program, and it had truly astounding results,” said Stevens. “Our men have never had better [athletic] testing scores. The team worked hard in the off-season and they mean business. We have a lot of fifth years that want to see the Vanier Cup brought back to Calgary.”

Guedo and Hanley will be this year’s offensive co-captains. Guedo graduates this year as a religious studies major while Haney is working towards his masters degree in biochemistry. Both players are excellent students and leaders in the university and football communities.

The defensive co-captains will be defensive back Scott Thompson and linebacker Josh Campbell. Both players are in their fifth and final seasons with the Dinos. Thompson will be finishing his science degree while Campbell already has his kinesiology degree and will be finishing his education degree later this year.

All four of the co-captains are extremely hard working and motivating. They demand nothing but the best from their teammates and are well respected for it. They look forward to pushing the Dinos into a well deserved playoff position later this fall.

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