UNBSJ Seawolves ready for Sunday's home turf game
Football Seawolves host Dalhousie Tigers in Atlantic Football League's battle of unbeaten collegiate teams at Canada Games Stadium
SAINT JOHN - Dave Grandy is going to find out a lot about his University of New Brunswick Saint John Seawolves when they entertain the Dalhousie Tigers in a battle of unbeaten teams Sunday afternoon in Atlantic Football League action.
The Seawolves kicked off their 2013 campaign at home last week with a thrilling 38-34 victory over Holland College Hurricanes. With back-to-back contests at Canada Games Stadium to open the regular season, the UNBSJ head coach understands the importance of holding serve at home in a fourteam league.
"Having home dates early on makes these games important for us," said Grandy. "It's important to get a couple of wins under our belt. This league has parity - any team can win any game on any given day. It's huge when you don't have to travel. It doesn't hurt having a good crowd on hand, either." The UNBSJ-Dal game kicks off Sunday at 4 p.m. Meanwhile, University of New Brunswick Red Bombers (0-1) visit Charlottetown to play Holland College (0-1) at 1 p.m.
Grandy said there are a number of things the team will focus on in preparation for the Halifax-based gridders. It starts with controlling the line scrimmage on both sides of the football: "The game of football is won in the trenches," said the veteran coach, who does double duty by coaching Saint John High School Greyhounds. "We controlled the line of scrimmage against Holland College. It allowed our running backs to gain yards, and allowed our defence to put pressure on their quarterback. Those are positive things for us." Grandy was happy his offence put five touchdowns on the board against Holland College; he was equally alarmed about the amount of points the Hurricanes scored, but isn't pointing a finger at the defence.
"I'm not going to sell our defence down the river," said Grandy. "A lot of points Holland scored were not attributed to our defence. They capitalized on special teams and also scored a touchdown on a fumble recovery. The score was not indicative of how our defence played. We did a good job against a good team.
"Offensively, we did a great job running the ball - historically, we've always been known as a running team, and that's going to continue. UNBSJ is not a finesse team. We pride ourselves on playing tough, physical football and we believe we have to run the ball to play that way." He expects the Tigers to come out swinging on Sunday.
"Dal's been steadily improving as a team," said Grandy.
"We expect the Tigers to run a similar-style offence that Holland College ran - lots of passing. They have some guys who used to play at Holland that we're familiar with. For the last number of years, games have been close among the teams - we split with Dal last year. It makes for better games for fans to watch. Last week against Holland College, the game went up and down, like a roller-coaster ride. Teams kept on exchanging the lead. Emotions were running high and fans love those kinds of games - lots of points, big plays. We expect another competitive game when we play Dal." Grandy likes the weapons at his disposal on offence - guys like Chris Freake, who scored two touchdowns in the season opener, and Charlie Harroun, Trevor Floyd and Nigel Sisk, who added six-pointers. He said the ball distribution on offence speaks to UNBSJ's balanced attack. That's the job of his freshman quarterback, Sean Galbraith, who threw for three touchdowns and looked every bit the part of a college quarterback.
"Sean has a good head on his shoulders, has a good arm and is composed under centre," said Grandy. "He distributed the ball well in the opener - he got the ball to the right spot. Sean will give us a good look when he's out there on the field. We're happy with where he's at, and remember, he's only in his first year." The head coach said the Seawolves will focus on taking care of the football against Dal, adding that teams that don't turn the ball over usually parlay that into victories.
"Hopefully, this game will be cleaned up and we won't see the mistakes we saw in the opener," said Grandy.
"Football outcomes come down to execution and controlling the ball. Whoever executes better usually wins on that day, and that means fewer turnovers. We know we have to minimize our mistakes. The guys will be prepared to go into battle against Dal. We'll be fired up for every single game we play this year."
UNBSJ Seawolves QB Sean Galbraith during practice at Canada Games Stadium. PHOTO: CINDY WILSON/TELEGRAPH-JOURNAL
Head coach Dave Grandy during football practice. PHOTO: CINDY WILSON/TELEGRAPH-JOURNAL
COLLEGE FOOTBALL GAME DAY RETURNS TO UNBSJ
Sports junkies are going crazy with National Football League fantasy pools. Pennant races are heating up in Major League Baseball, and Red Sox Nation think its lunch-bucket American League team is onto something special with those shabby-looking beards.
And - drum roll please - the short National Hockey League off-season is over. Finally, Canadians can get back to hockey pools and all that optimism about the Maple Leafs being on the cusp of ending a 53-year Stanley Cup futility streak - the longest in the game.
While all that is happening, there's something really cool going on at Tucker Park - college football.
It's Saturday, and that means it's "Game Day" on the campus of the University of New Brunswick-Saint John - home to the Seawolves who enter their fifth year in the Atlantic Football League.
I'm not kidding.
It was 2009 when Barry Ogden, an ideas guy, took the snap and ran with the ball of forming an Atlantic collegiate-level league that would allow local athletes to stay home and play football while getting a post-secondary education. There were pundits who opined that the league would last a few years and die on the vine - quietly.
Five years later, the AFL has four solvent teams - the same number as its big brothers in Atlantic University Sport. Teams will play a home-and-home series against each other for a six-game regular season. The semi-finals pitting first against fourth and second against third are October 26, setting the stage for the Moosehead Cup championship on November 2.
The Seawolves' organization promises an entertaining Saturday when it hosts Holland College Hurricanes of Charlottetown, P.E.I. for a 4 p.m. contest in one of two season-openers - the other game pits reigning champion University of New Brunswick Red Bombers in Halifax to face Dalhousie Tigers in a 6 p.m. start at Wickwire Field.
Prior to kick-off in Saint John, Tucker Park will come alive with an antique car show hosted by KV Cruisers, music from the Balysto Steel Band and performances by the Carleton Cheer Leaders. The entire day is a bargain - tickets are $5 at the gate and children under 14 are admitted free. And, in keeping with the local community theme - which is what the Seawolves are about - volunteers from the Community Food Basket (South End) and North End Food Bank will be honoured.
Once the game begins, Seawolves' head coach Dave Grandy expects the boys to turn in a solid performance.
"On offence, we're going to be led by our quarterback, Sean Galbraith, a firstyear player out of Saint John High," said Grandy."The offensive line is strong with Andrew Palmer, Jon Atherton, Travis Baxter, Keltie Baxter and Josh Richards. They're a veteran group that has been playing football for a while. In the backfield are guys like Trevor Floyd and Charlie Harroun and receivers include Ryan Foster, Rane Giffin and Sean Wedge. These guys play hard and we expect them to provide a spark on offence." Grandy likes the balance the Seawolves bring to the gridiron and expects the defence will take care of its business.
"We're excited about the defence," he said."Our team MVP, Rob Fox, is back and coming off the edge of the defensive line. Back from Mount Allison after one year is Sean Craig, another key component who will play either defensive end or outside linebacker. In the linebacking core is Chris Reid, who played for three years before sitting out last year, and Dan Duplessis. Alex McGarvey, a five-year man and team captain, anchors the defensive backfield. Colin Gallagher, a four-year man, is also back there and we have Nick Gillespie, who played last year at St. F.X. What is different from last year's defence is our depth." The Seawolves got their cleats broken in last weekend during an international exhibition game at Bangor, Maine, losing 46-14 to Husson University Eagles. The idea to play the U.S. school comes from Ogden, the team's president and general-manager.
To date, three of the four teams have won the league title - UNB in 2009 and 2012, UNBSJ in 2010 and Holland College in 2011. Grandy expects the race to the 2013 Moosehead Cup to be another coin toss. And, he will say this: he likes the 2013 version of the Seawolves.
"We have a good core group of guys, so we're excited about the season," said Grandy."We expect big things - we go into every year with the goal of winning a championship. If we didn't, we wouldn't be doing the right things here. The talent level is very good. We're going to fight for that championship." The AFL also has a carrot to dangle that's bound to raise the talent level of teams: its elite players will be invited to Canadian Football League combines on an on-going basis.That's pretty heady stuff.
No one knows for sure when and if a CFLer will come from the AFL ranks - much like the days of the former Atlantic conference when the Red Bombers of old produced CFLers like Moncton's Stewart Fraser, Saint John's Chris Skinner and Oromocto's Mike Washburn. But we do know this: there's more New Brunswick boys playing college football today than there were five years ago.
Enough said. Ron Barry is a former managing editor of the Telegraph-Journal. His column appears on Saturday. He can be reached via email at email@example.com
Head Coach Dave Grandy shouts instructions to Potential Seawolves players during tryouts at the UNBSJ Canada Games Stadium. PHOTO: TOPHER SEGUIN/TELEGRAPH-JOURNAL ARCHIVE
Canadian Football League Throws Young Circuit a Plum
(Ron Barry for the Telegraph Journal)
Someday, a player in
the Atlantic Football League will be drafted by a CFL team. Someday, an AFL
player will sign a CFL contract.
Someday, an AFL player will play in the CFL. He may even be on a Grey Cup champion - someday.
Why all the optimism?
AFL commissioner Terry Allen of Charlottetown has informed league members of a major breakthrough in the recognition of the young circuit, which enters its fifth year this fall: for the first time ever, its players will be invited to regional combines hosted by the CFL on an ongoing basis. Allen got the news from Ryan Janzen, the CFL's director of football operations.
The first opportunity comes March 20 in Quebec City. The combine is an audition of sorts for draft-eligible and fifth-year seniors, affording them the opportunity to put their talents on display for CFL scouts.
"This brings respectability to our league," said Allen. "We've only been operating four years. For the CFL to recognize us in this way presents another avenue for young players to take a shot at professional football. Prior to this, these athletes would have to play in the CIS (Canadian University Sport) in order to be drafted. Now, there is another avenue." The spark that ignited CFL interest in the league came courtesy of Marcus Dunphy, a linebacker who starred for Holland College Hurricanes. Toronto Argonauts liked what they saw in the Surrey, P.E.I. native when he attended the combine last year.
"Marcus came close - the Argos took a couple of looks at him,"said Allen, who resides in Charlottetown.
"They tested him … there was serious interest at the time. They did not sign him, but it opened the door - it has given us this opening and we must make sure we use it wisely. I have informed teams that we only want to send players who have a shot, if you will. What we don't want to do is send a busload of players to the combine just for the sake of doing it. The players must be of the calibre they're looking for, and I have relayed that message to the coaches and clubs." The league's founding father, Barry Ogden of Saint John, is gratified by the new development.
"This gives us credibility - it means we're doing things right, as a league," said Ogden, who doubles as president and general manager of the UNBSJ Seawolves. "The CFL has noticed our teams have been close - no big blowouts, a lot of close games. That speaks to the calibre of play. And remember - our players are 18 to 24 years of age. From the beginning we wanted to give young players an opportunity to play football, and play close to home. They are important principles to remember.
"One mother told me her family saved $50,000 by her son attending UNBSJ and playing football there, as opposed to the cost they would have incurred elsewhere. That's why our program at UNBSJ works. And to get CFL recognition, well, that's great for the players. You may see more athletes staying home where we have teams now. It's a big step." The AFL currently has four league members - the Seawolves, Holland College, UNB RedBombers of Fredericton and Dalhousie Tigers of Halifax. Teams play a home-and-home series against each other, leading to the semifinals and championship game. The Red Bombers are reigning champions.
The immediate offshoot of the CFL recognition is obvious to the commissioner - an improved calibre of athlete being attracted to the AFL.
"We already have had players express an interest in our league because this avenue is now available," said Allen. "I don't think it's unreasonable to suggest that within the next number of years, a player from the AFL will be drafted by a CFL team. But don't expect it to happen this time - it's a very short window to next month's combine. We will have a serious talk about this opportunity at our AGM in May, and develop a process, going forward. Above all, we want to ensure we keep the nominations at the highest possible level." Ogden agrees.
"Yes, quality over quantity is important," he added, "but it stands to reason that if we continue to progress, it's likely that one of our players will play in the CFL some day. That should be one of the goals of the AFL."
The Seawolves will continue their relationship with Husson University Eagles this year. The teams will meet Sept. 17 in Bangor, Maine, for the Mayor's Cup. In 2011, the Seawolves won 14-13 playing American rules.
BLUE BOYS RETURNING
Illinois College Blue Boys will make a return visit to UNBSJ in 2014 to play the Seawolves in an exhibition game which features a 50/50 split between Canadian and American football rules. In the inaugural match last year, the Blue Boys won 35-0.
HOMECOMING IN WORKS
Another thing Ogden is working on is a Homecoming Weekend at the Tucker Park campus, the centrepiece being a football game with the rival Red Bombers. The workaholic has broached the subject with both alumni and university officials. "We play in UNB Fredericton's homecoming game," said Ogden. "It's a great time up there.
"It would be nice to have a homecoming game at the Saint John campus and make it a community thing.
"It would add to the success the Seawolves, and the league, is having.
"There is no downside to it - it's a win-win for everyone."
Ron Barry is a former managing editor of the Telegraph-Journal. His column appears on Saturday.
Barry Ogden is the AFL's founding father. PHOTO: TELEGRAPH-JOURNAL ARCHIVE
Seawolves will lean
on veterans; Football UNB Saint John will open its AFL
season on Sept. 15 at home against Holland College
New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal
Wed Aug 29 2012
SAINT JOHN - The UNB Saint John Seawolves of the Atlantic Football League opened their training camp at the Canada Games Stadium this weekend to prepare for their home opener against Holland College Sept. 15 at 7 p.m. "I'm looking forward to a good start," said Seawolves' head coach Dave Grandy. "Today it's just about getting out, getting everybody back together again and shaking off summer."
For some players the two-hour practice, which included drills such as pushing a weighted sled 20 yards over and over again, was a rough wake-up call with one player forced to sit out after vomiting. For the next three-weeks the team will meet another 13 times to prepare for the six-game season. "Both of our quarterbacks are back from last year so we will be looking to both Trevor Harrison and Jeremy McAulay to lead our team," Grandy said. Last year the team narrowly lost in the semifinals 23-22 to the University of New Brunswick Red Bombers after finishing the season 3-3. "Having two guys that have experience already at the quarterback position is going to be a huge asset for us going into the season," Grandy said, acknowledging that the team has lost about half of its players from last year. "I think there is some rebuilding that will have to happen," said Bruce Watts, vice-president of the Seawolves, who was in attendance for the opening day. "We need to recruit and retain some of the top high school players from the region. We've lost some of our key veterans like Justin Cavan, a former league MVP. He'll be hard to replace," he said, adding that due to his age he is no longer eligible to play in the league.
Unlike Canadian Inter-university Sport football clubs, such as Mount Allison University, the AFL does not recruit players with scholarships. "One of the big differences between our league and the other CIS leagues is we have local players," Watts said. "All these kids are local talent that have grown up in the southern New Brunswick area. They aren't blessed with scholarships, they're here because they want to go to school, they like playing football and they can combine both and stay in the community that they were born and raised in."
The AFL includes the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, Holland College in Charlottetown, Dalhousie University in Halifax and Saint John. To start a team, it costs about $50,000, Watts said. This year the Seawolves will likely spend between $25,000 to $30,000 for buses, field time, and equipment. "It's not an expensive program by any means compared to CIS programs or U.S. programs. All of our coaches and staff are volunteers," he said. Most of the money is raised through local sponsors and players fees.
Admission to games is $5 for adults and $2 for students. Kids under the age of 14 are admitted free of charge, while Fundy Minor Football players who wear their jerseys can also get in for free. "We had about 1,700 fans for our opening game in 2010," Watts said, "We're hoping to get upwards of 1,000 fans for our home opener."
August 25, 2012 CBC News "UNB Saint John football team practice begins"