Practices are in the books, the game jerseys have been handed out and the players are tired of looking at familiar faces across the line of scrimmage.
It’s officially time to play some live football in Ottawa at the 2019 U SPORTS East-West Bowl.
Showcase games can be difficult to assess. You never know if players who performed well all week with each other will answer the bell and gel or if the forced chemistry of a one-week three-day training camp will result in a sloppy back and forth low-scoring affair.
In the past, both have been true depending on the year and this spring on the campus of Carleton University could be no different, but let’s look at the five things we do know about the 2019 version of this cross country matchup based on the practices and meetings this week.
Expect plenty of rock running
Especially early on in the game, I fully expect Team West to trust their ground attack due to their dominant offensive line and the distinct size advantage they hold. Offensive Coordinator from the Guelph Gryphons Mark Surya has to feel pretty comfortable with the game plan he has installed this week, knowing that he can run the ball at anytime.
Sinagra under the microscope
While Team West will likely start with a heavy dose of up-front muscle-moving bodies, it shouldn’t last long because they have the best quarterback in U SPORTS at the helm with Calgary’s Adam Sinagra.
Sinagra is coming off an incredible 2018season. He led the Dinos to an 8-0 regular season in the Canada West, throwing for 3,233 yards and 23 touchdowns. Sinagra led the nation in both total passing yards and yards per game (404.1 yards/game) and was second in the nation in passing touchdowns. In his two playoff games, Sinagra threw for 639 yards and four touchdowns. Sinagra’s 2018 season earned him the U SPORTS Hec Crighton Trophy for most outstanding player, and the Canada West nomination for the Lieutenant Governor Athletic Awards as U SPORTS Male Athlete of the Year across all sports.
The thing I respect most about his game is the patience he displays in the pocket, calmly manoeuvring around pressure and changing his arm angle to whatever delivery is required to get the first down. On Saturday, everyone should keep a close eye on the Dinos’ lead man.
One of the best parts of the East-West Bowl for me each year is the mystery prospect who arrives with a limited resume or lack of exposure for whatever reason and opens eyes.
This year that could be Montreal defensive back Marc-Antoine Dequoy, the RSEQ Defensive Player of the Year. With his length and speed, Dequoy has the ability to recover better than most in this draft class and would have been an intriguing prospect in this year’s CFL Draft if compared side-by-side with 2018 East-West Bowl alumni Malcom Lee from UBC.
Dequoy has played primarily field halfback for the Carabins but should get a run at corner in-game Saturday and maybe even a couple looks at free safety - his natural position at the next level.
Kickers are king
While it might not be the sexiest topic of all time, the reality is there are two extremely talented boots in this year’s contest, both calling Team West home. Calgary’s Niko DiFonte and Western’s Marc Liegghio are legitimate CFL kicking prospects, even if most jobs are locked up in the nine- team CFL circuit.
Occasionally in showcase games, the kickers can play hero if the offences stumble due to inexperience playing together. If that happens, give Team West a distinct advantage.
Execution is the name of the game
Here’s the reality of the East-West Bowl. There are 88 players here. With only 50 spots available in the national combine next year and 73 players drafted a few weeks ago, this game is a proving ground that asks for players to understand assignments and complete them at a high level every down, as scouts will undoubtedly be watching back the tape.
Make one bust or whiff on an assignment in a game where you are in a substitution rotation with teammates and you just might end up on the bench chewing on the inside of your lip in anger about your one big miss.
By that same token, make one great play and you can help your draft stock and U SPORTS prowess this fall in great ways. It’s all about executing and playing with the framework of a relatively simple gameplay as restricted by game guidelines.
If you can make great plays in this game, you can make them anywhere, even the CFL.
The nation’s top university level football talent is coming to Ottawa as Carleton University will host the 2019 U SPORTS East-West Bowl at MNP Park on Saturday, May 11.
Tickets for the game are on sale now, with kickoff scheduled for 12:30 p.m. ET / 9:30 a.m. PT