Typically, when a football team loses its quarterback, it can expect to take a step backwards relative to the pack, no matter how promising the new man may be.
In Ontario University Athletics, this is not a typical year. Quarterbacks have graduated at an unprecedented rate, introducing an element of uncertainly that also may be unprecedented.
• Last autumn’s two Yates Cup finalists, the Guelph Gryphons and McMaster Marauders, have new quarterbacks.
• The Windsor Lancers have a new quarterback. So do the Queen’s Golden Gaels.
• Likewise, Carleton has a new quarterback—sort of; Jesse Mills, the 2013 starter who lost his job last year, remains—and new quarterbacks will preside in two places where that might not be such a bad thing: Waterloo and York.
We might even see a new quarterback before long at Western, where Will Finch, whose season ended with a nasty knee-to-helmet collision a year ago that gave him a concussion, has to curtail the aggressive play that makes him so good, lest he expose himself to a tackle that causes another brain injury.
Only at Laurier (James Fracas), Ottawa (Derek Wendel) and Toronto (Simon Nassar) is the position occupied by an experienced, healthy incumbent.
In such a scenario, uncertainly dwells in more camps than usual; wanna-bees can allow themselves to be more hopeful than usual, and the teams that customarily occupy the upper echelon may not be as comfortable as they usually are.
Of such things are interesting seasons made.
Gone are a host of fifth-year men: First-team all-star Austin Kennedy from Windsor, Marshall Ferguson from defending champion McMaster, Jazz Lindsey from Yates Cup finalist Guelph, Billy McPhee from Queen’s. Two others who were No. 1 at their respective schools last year, Nick Gorgichuk at Carleton and Jamie Cook at Waterloo, have departed and at York, it’s expected prized recruit Brett Hunchak, pried out of Calgary from under the noses of the perennially powerful Dinos, is expected to emerge as No. 1 ahead of two guys who combined for fewer passing yards last year than 25 other quarterbacks in Canada threw by themselves.
No matter how eager people are to see how the new crop of quarterbacks adapt to intercollegiate ball, we can be no less curious about the situation at Western. No one wishes misfortune to befall Finch, a truly superb athlete who would be, unquestionably, the best in the province had injuries not become an unfortunate part of his history. No less an authority than Mustangs coach Greg Marshall affirms that caution is demanded where Finch is concerned.
“He’s not running this year,” Marshall told the London Free Press. “We told him that if he was in trouble, to throw the ball away. We told him to protect himself.
“We also aren’t going to put in any quarterback (running plays).”
Even amid precaution, however, you have to wonder. Finch is a player whose identity—indeed much of his success—revolved around his ability to escape pressure by running not just quickly, but as hard away from trouble as any running back. Not only did his courage generate first downs, it also discouraged opponents from pinning their ears back with a pass rush.
No matter how much he’s improved his throwing—he told Free Press reporter Morris Dalla Costa he’s throwing “10 times better” than he ever has—can Finch become an effective pocket passer when the threat to take off isn’t present? We’ll see.
Meanwhile, the schools with a departed quarterback present replacements who run the gamut—from freshmen, to understudies now getting their chance, to a former national champion.
At Guelph, the Gryphons welcome the arrival of Alex Skinner, who led Laval to a Vanier Cup in 2013. Originally from Ottawa, he left the rouge et or a year ago when it appeared he may be losing his job and it turned out to be a prescient decision: his successor, Hugo Richard, just so happened to lead the nation in passing yards.
Skinner joins sophomore James Roberts, who got into enough games last year to serve notice he’s a capable university quarterback: He threw five touchdown passes in the regular year and, as a replacement for the injured Lindsey, led Guelph past Western in the semifinals.
At McMaster, the understudy, Asher Hastings, moves into the top spot with 50 pass attempts under his belt. They’re quietly excited about sophomore Nate Hobbs at Queen’s, though he played surprisingly little as a rookie, given the Gaels were eliminated from the playoffs with three games to go in their season. Lucas McConnell got more game time at Waterloo—115 pass attempts—but he completed just 45 per cent of them and he threw five interceptions, with nary a touchdown.
The rookies may rule the day at York, where Hunchak brings a pedigree that includes back-to-back International Bowl appearances and a silver medal in the world junior championship of 2014, and Windsor, where Liam Putt of Caledonia, Ont., arrives fresh from throwing two touchdowns as a member of Canada’s under-18 team that beat the U.S. 53-9 at the International Bowl in Texas last February.
New or old, however, quarterbacks to a large degree succeed or fail with the performance of their offensive lines, and Guelph and Western boast the two best in the province going into the season—and since the Gryphons and Mustangs don’t happen to meet in the regular schedule, it isn’t inconceivable that both teams could be undefeated at the end of the year.
After that, probably the most interesting battle could evolve among Laurier, Ottawa, Queen’s and McMaster for third and fourth place, and the right to host a quarter-final game. Carleton may join that fray, and if Putt performs well, perhaps Windsor could, too.
The timing could not be better for a team like York to move up a notch or two. Toronto does not present the same promise it failed to fulfill the last couple of years, and Waterloo? The best we can hope is that there are enough genuine football players in its 37-man freshman class that the Warriors can again become a worthy opponent soon.
Coach: Steve Sumarah (fourth year; 10th year in the CIS)
Last year: 4-4, did not make the playoffs
Key returnees: First-team conference all-stars WR Nate Behar (second in the league in receiving yards in 2014); second-team all-star CB Tunde Adeleke; RB Jahvari Bennett was fifth in the league in rushing a year ago (93 yds per game); LB Leon Cenerini led the league in tackles; OL Tyler Young, FB Stefano Napolitano, DL Stefan Carty, DB Nate Hamlin.
Key losses: QB Nick Gorgichuk.
Recruits to watch: Rec Fred Lamoureux (Lennoxville, Que.), RB Jonathan Muamba (Edmonton), OL Jesse Lawson (Langley, B.C.), DL Bill Aziz (Montreal), DB Guillaume Caron (Lennoxville), DB MacKenzie Johnson (Kelowna, B.C.)
Local content: OL Nolan McGreer (Frontenac); former Queen’s player Ryan Bechmanis is the defensive co-ordinator.
They don’t play: McMaster, Laurier
Pre-season result: Beat Sherbrooke 16-12
Last championship: 1985 (Dunsmore Cup)
Synopsis: In the second season of the program’s resurrection, the Ravens showed progress last year, playing .500 ball after a winless season in 2013. However, with a playoff berth on the line and destiny in its hands on the final day of the regular year, Carleton turned in an uninspired performance at home against a 2-5 Queen’s team—not quite the signature of a team on the rise. Carleton does return 23 starters, but at quarterback is apparently relying on Jesse Mills, the 2013 starter, who essentially lost the job last year. On the surface, there’s not a lot to suggest a natural progression. Ease of schedule may help, though.
Coach: Stu Lang (sixth year)
Last year: 7-1, lost to McMaster in the Yates Cup
Key returnees: First-team all-stars C Matthew Nesbitt, T Matthew Toppan, S Tristan Doughlin, LB Curtis Newton (second in the league in tackles); second-team all-stars G Cameron Wilhelm, WR A’dre Fraser, CB Colin Mandich; QB James Roberts took over in the playoffs last year and acquitted himself well as a rookie; RB Johnny Augustine had a 100-yard game in his only 2014 start; DB Nick Parisotto forced three fumbles and was second in the league with four interceptions; LB John Rush.
Key losses: All-stars Rec Andre Charette and DE Cameron Walker are in the CFL; RB Rob Farquharson was third in the league in rushing yards per game (109); K Dan Ferraro kicked a CIS record 26 field goals in 2014; QB Jazz Lindsey.
Recruits to watch: QB Alex Skinner transfers from Laval, where he won a national championship in 2013; RB Mack Jones (Port Colborne, Ont.), OL Jaylan Guthrie, DL Byron MacKinnon (Victoria), LB Job Reinhart (Guelph), Team Canada DB Elijah Walker (Brampton).
Local content: RB Rob Carnegie (Frontenac), OL Arran MacRae (Frontenac via Kent School in Kent, Ct.)
They don’t play: Toronto, Western
Pre-season result: Tied Manitoba, 33-33
Last championship: 1996 (Yates Cup)
Synopsis: Success on the football field starts with the offensive line and Guelph’s, with three returning all-stars, is unparalleled in Ontario. The transition from Jazz Lindsey to Roberts and/or Skinner would appear to be the most seamless among all the teams replacing quarterbacks this year. There’s elite talent on the defensive line, in the linebacking corps and in the defensive secondary. Augustine, with three 100-yard games in two years as a backup, gives no reason to suggest he won’t be a capable starter. It’s difficult to see an exploitable weakness here.
Coach: Stefan Ptaszek (10th year)
Last year: 7-1, lost to Montreal in the Vanier Cup
Key returnees: Second-team all-stars DE Mike Kashak, T Sean Smith, G Zach Intzandt; Rec Daniel Petermann was conference rookie of the year; SB Danny Vandervoort was a second-team all-Canadian; RB Wayne Moore, FB Chris Pezzetta.
Key losses: All-Canadian K Tyler Crapigna graduated as the all-time CIS career leader in field goals; LB Nick Shorthill and CB Joe Cupido were both second-team all-Canadians; second-team OUA all-star DB Scott Martin; QB Marshall Ferguson established a school record for touchdown passes in a five-year career of which he was a starter for just three.
Recruits to watch: QB Dylan Astrom, QB Anthony Bontorin
Local content: Rec Mitch O’Connor (Frontenac); former Golden Gaels LB-LS Nick Nucci.
They don’t play: Carleton, Queen’s
Pre-season result: Did not play.
Last championship: 2014 (Yates Cup)
Synopsis: McMaster graduated several splendid players but this was a deep roster, talent-wise, so the loss of four all-Canadians might not affect the Marauders as much as it would lesser programs. Don’t forget, there was significant attrition after the Vanier Cup appearances of 2011-12, but the next year saw Mac finish 5-3, so let’s not expect a free fall here. With the gradiuation of six DBs there will be challenges in the defensive secondary, and while the incumbent quarterback will be in his first year as a starter, McMaster did a better job than most getting him ready last year, as Asher Hastings threw 50 passes in 2014, completing 60 per cent of them and throwing just one interception. Look for the Marauders to be good, but not great.
Coach: Jamie Barresi (third year)
Last year: 5-3, lost to McMaster in the semifinals
Key returnees: QB Derek Wendel begins his second season as a starter, coming off a season when he threw for an average of 271 yards per game, with a .624 completion percentage; RB Bryce Vieira took over as the tailback at the end of his rookie season, averaging 114 yards per game (including a 170-yard game vs. McMaster); second-team all-star LB Nick Lecour; LBs Tanner Care and Marc-Antoine Laurin played in the East-West Bowl; K Lewis Ward was fourth in the nation in FG percentage (.860); Rec Ian Stewart had 44 receptions, 19 more in the playoffs, and four 100-yard games.
Key losses: DT Ettore Lattanzio was the Metras Trophy winner; second-team all-star T Adam Valchuk; OL Taylor Servais, OL Joe Adesina.
Recruits to watch: Rec Jamie Harry (Lachine, Que.), OL Cameron Lougas (Keswick, Ont.), Rec Carter Matheson (Kingston), DL Charles Bender (Austin, Tex.), LB Ryan Lipomi (Pinehurst, N.C.)
Local content: OL Matt Amey (Napanee), Rec Ben Fisher (Sydenham), DL David Hron (Holy Cross), K Lewis Ward (Bayridge), DL Nick Zanet, DB Tyler Ling and Rec Harris McEachern (Regiopolis Notre Dame); Rec Carter Matheson, DL Joel Ferland, DB Connor O’Neil, RB Dustin Brogaard (Frontenac)
They don’t play: Waterloo, York
Pre-season result: Lost 36-3 to Montreal
Last championship: 2006 (Yates Cup)
Synopsis: The Gee-Gees surprised some people last year, largely due to the breakout season of previously untested quarterback Wendel, the former Kingston Grenadier. The team’s five receivers return, Vieira showed he may be ready to join the league’s elite backs and Ward emerged as one of the most dependable kickers in the land. Ottawa’s defence, however, allowed the most points of any team that made the playoffs last year, and from that group the Gee-Gees lost Lattanzio, the top lineman in Canada. Also, take Ottawa’s rebound year with a grain of salt; the Gee-Gees had the weakest schedule in the league (they played all five non-playoff teams) so they may not be as close to contending as you’d think. If the progression continues, however, one would be ill advised to take them lightly.
QUEEN’S GOLDEN GAELS
Coach: Pat Sheahan (16th year, 27th in the CIS)
Last year: 3-5, did not make the playoffs
Key returnees: RB Jesse Andrews was second in the league last year with 127 rushing yards per game, with a high of 245 vs. Carleton; second-team all-star WR Doug Corby had 131 yards receiving and three TDs, both records, in the East-West Bowl; LB Mike Moore led the team in tackles as a rookie; K Dillon Wamsley was ninth in the nation last year, punting for a 39.2-yd average; WR Curtis Carmichael, DL Luke Ball, DB Jason Shamatutu, SB Peter Hannon, DL Zac Sauer.
Key losses: Second-team OUA all-stars DL Derek Wiggan and WR Alex Carroll are in the CFL; QB Billy McPhee, DB Yann Dika-Balotoken.
Recruits to watch: Rec Chris Osei-Kusi (Brampton) is a former Canada Cup champion; DL Allen Champagne (Montreal) transfers from North Carolina; Rec Jeremy Pendergast (Kingston), LB Kurtis Schaefer (Stittsville, Ont.).
Local content: DL Luke Ball, DL Corey Flude, S Matt Pendergast, Rec Jeremy Pendergast, FB Eric Dodwell (Holy Cross); RB Brodie Latimer (Sydenham); LB Spencer Giffin, DL Jeff Vanderspank (Ernestown), SB Aaron Dowd, LB Nick Dowd, G Rob Bogle (La Salle), OL Brendan Ginn (Niagara Academy via Holy Cross).
They don’t play: McMaster, Windsor
Pre-season result: Lost 21-18 at Concordia
Last championship: 2009 (Vanier Cup)
Synopsis: A 2014 campaign that began dreadfully for the Gaels ended with three straight wins, and the first string played a terrific first half in the preseason game at Concordia, but it’s still a young football team, with essentially a rookie quarterback in Nate Hobbs. Andrews is a stud, with six 100-yard games in the eight intercollegiate games he’s started. With the graduation of Wiggan, McKee, Carroll and Dika-Balotoken, the dismantling of the 2013 Yates Cup finalist is complete and it’s now time to see how a young offensive line and defensive secondary respond to a trying 2014 season. If the mistakes of last year become lessons learned, this will be a team to reckon with by the end of the year; if they’ve become ingrained as bad habits, the Gaels will be in trouble.
TORONTO VARSITY BLUES
Coach: Greg Gary (fifth year)
Last year: 2-6, did not make the playoffs
Key returnees: QB Simon Nassar led the league in completions (180) and set a single-game CIS record with 49 vs. Carleton; RB Lukas Gavac was fifth in the league in rushing; ex-Golden Gael Boris Isakov had a career-best 32 catches; LB Dylan Gordon was sixth in the league in tackles in 2013; DB Jaiden McBride.
Key losses: First-team all-star WR Llevi Noel; WR Kevin Bradfield; OL Aaron Wheaton; DL Everton Williams, P Aaron Gazendam
Recruits to watch: LB Adrian Bernard and punter T.J. Morton transfer from Susquehanna College, a Division III school in Snelinsgrove, Pa., where Morton was a second-team all-American; DL Julian Romano (Vaughan), LB Matt Renaud (Ottawa, via high school in Virginia)
Local content: Ex-Gael Isakov; former Kingston Grenadier RB Cole Goodfellow of Belleville.
They don’t play: Guelph, Laurier
Pre-season result: Beat McGill 36-3
Last championship: 1993 (Vanier Cup)
Synopsis: The Blues’ return to respectability has seemed at hand for a couple of years, but the team may have taken a step backwards last year, when they couldn’t beat anybody but York and Waterloo. The schedule maker has done them a favour by letting them skip Laurier and Guelph, but there’s not much here to suggest they’ll be able to do more than just tread water. Nassar’s completion numbers aside, the Blues graduated his top two receivers, and they don’t number any receivers among their top recruits. And, yes, Gavac might have been fifth in the league in rushing, but almost half his yards (313 of 677) came in the two games against York and Waterloo. If there’s reason here for optimism, it’s not readily apparent.
Coach: Chris Bertoia (first year)
Last year: 1-7, did not make the playoffs
Key returnees: Fifth-year LB Greg Zaitz led the team with 54 tackles, after being fourth in Canada in 2013; RB Ryan DiRisio rushed for 162 yards in 2014; RB Danny Silvestri, QB Lucas McConnell, OL Taz Martin, DB Christian Mahler.
Key losses: QB Jamie Cook, SB Paul Cecile, OL Thomas Demers
Recruits to watch: FB Kevin Boismier, OL Kyle Boismier (London), DB Lautaro Frecha (Sault Ste. Marie)
Local content: DB Jeff Kuipers (Frontenac); former Golden Gael Sam Sabourin is the strength and conditioning coach.
They don’t play: Ottawa, Western
Pre-season result: Did not play.
Last championship: 1999 (Yates Cup)
Synopsis: Oh, my. Where does one begin? A team that owed its only win in 2014 to the hapless York Lions—and has won just four of 32 games in the last four years—still hasn’t recovered from its year-long self-imposed drug suspension of 2010. The Warriors return 12 starters on defence, but they can’t all play if they want to improve: Waterloo allowed better than 52 points per game—worst in the CIS—612 yards per game—only Alberta was worse, but by just three yards—and the Warriors sacked the quarterback just nine times in eight games. Yikes. It’s not the kind of defence necessary to support an offence whose top returning skill players are a running back who was 34th in the league last year and a sophomore quarterback who completed just 45 per cent of his passes as a rookie. The Warriors did, however, attract a recruiting class of 37 young men who are either possessed of a noble dream or weren’t good enough to go anywhere else, a hair that only time can split. “These are high character, tough and bright student-athletes and we feel good about our future," coach Bertoia said at their introduction. Maybe so, but that future is at least two years away.
Coach: Greg Marshall (ninth year, 16th in the CIS)
Last year: 6-2, lost to Guelph in the semifinals
Key returnees: QB Will Finch, 2013 second-team all-Canadian and the OUA single-season record holder for passing yards; RB Yannick Harou, a first-team OUA all-star and the leading rusher on the nation’s best rushing team in 2014, he averaged 8.1 yards per carry; first-team all-Canadians T Eddie Meredith and G Sean Jamieson; C Matt Van Praet, a second-team OUA all-star; second-team all-Canadians DE Ricky Osei-Kusi and DB Josh Woodman, first-team OUA all-star LB Preston Huggins.
Key losses: All-Canadian DL Daryl Waud and DL Cory Connop are in the CFL; second-team all-star LB Phil N’Djore; Rec Brian Marshall, who graduated as the No. 2 receiver in Western history; RB Garret Sanvido, who scored 26 touchdowns in his career.
Recruits to watch: LB Cory Roboch transfers from Calgary; Rec Jamal Kett transfers from NCAA Division II Simon Fraser; DB Clay Harris transfers from NCAA Division I Albany; RBs Cedric Joseph and Anthony Joyal (Lennoxville, Que.), Rec Brett Ellerman (Calgary);
Local content: None
They don’t play: Guelph, Waterloo
Pre-season result: Did not play
Last championship: 2013 (Yates Cup)
Synopsis: Like Guelph, the Mustangs return a formidable and experienced offensive line; but perhaps their returning backfield talent, which includes fifth-year SB Matt Uren and fourth-year receivers Justin Sanvido and George Johnson, is better. The elephant in the Mustangs’ locker room, however, is the precarious health of QB Will Finch. Can he overcome the competitive fire that burns within him and play the more conservative style his delicate noggin demands? If he does, how will that impact his effectiveness? Then there’s the way Western ended last season: After kicking sand in the faces of four feeble opponents to start the year, the Mustangs finished the regular year 2-2 and got their lunch handed to them, 51-26, by Guelph in the semifinals. Bottom line: A team with six conference all-stars on defence gave up 132 points in three games against the big boys, McMaster and Guelph. However, they are talented and deep, and since they don’t play the Gryphons, the Mustangs could still run the table.
WILFRID LAURIER GOLDEN HAWKS
Coach: Michael Faulds (third year)
Last year: 4-4, lost to Western in the quarter-finals
Key returnees: RB Dillon Campbell led the nation in rushing yards (1,458) and touchdowns (13) a year ago, never failing to get 100 yards in a game; Rec Greg Nyhof and LB Anthony Petrucci played in the East-West Bowl; DL Kwaku Boateng was second in the league in sacks as a sophomore; S Ben Miller was a second-team all-star in 2014; QB James Fracas, Rec Anthony Pizzuti.
Key losses: First-team all-conference G Tommy Griffiths; all-star P Ronnie Pfeffer is in the CFL; second-team all-star DE Ese Mrabure-Ajufo; RB Rashad LaTouche, DB Chris Ackie.
Recruits to watch: RB Osayi Iginuan (Montreal), Rec Kurleigh Gittens (Ottawa, Cumberland Panthers), OL Drew Mairleitner (Denfield, Ont.), DL Trevaughan James (Whitby), LB Matt Williams (Ajax).
Local content: Former Gaels receiver Mark Surya is the new offensive co-ordinator.
They don’t play: Carleton, Toronto
Pre-season result: Lost 33-10 at Saskatchewan
Last championship: 2005 (Vanier Cup)
Synopsis: A middle-of-the-pack outfit a year ago, Laurier returns 19 starters from a team that was three games better than it was in 2013, when Faulds, the former Western star, took over as head coach. Having the premier running back in the land return for a fifth season, running behind a fairly veteran line, means the Hawks start the season from a position of strength. Fracas, just the second Laurier quarterback to complete at least 62 per cent of his passes in back-to-back seasons, has proven himself capable and the Laurier defence allowed Western to score just one touchdown in the quarter-finals. Though they ended 2014 by losing four in a row—to the league’s four semifinalists—it’s not a stretch to see the Hawks continuing their upward progression. Sadly, theirs is as difficult a schedule as there is in the league, with dates against Western, Guelph, McMaster, Ottawa and Queen’s.
Coach: Joe D’Amore (fifth year)
Last year: 5-3, lost to Ottawa in the quarter-finals
Key returnees: RB Beau Lumley led the team in all-purpose yards (463 rushing, 326 receiving); OL Randy Beardy and DB Austin Crumb played in the East-West Bowl; LB Marcel Ugoh, LB Joe Iatzko.
Key losses: First-team all-stars QB Austin Kennedy, WR Evan Pszczonak; second-team all-stars DT Tai Pham, LB Frank Renaud.
Recruits to watch: DB Spencer Trinier (Windsor), QB Liam Putt (Caledonia, Ont.), OL Devin Desjardins (Windsor, Essex Ravens)
Local content: None.
They don’t play: Queen’s, York
Pre-season result: Beat York 28-12
Last championship: 1975 (Yates Cup)
Synopsis: With the all-star quarterback and one of the league’s premier receivers, the team was 4-4 on the field last year—gaining its fifth win via forfeit when Queen’s fessed up to using an ineligible player. Without them, or either of their 2014 second-team all-stars on defence, it may prove that last year was a peak in the ebb and flow of Lancer football, not a wave that was still building. Windsor had no one on the offensive line distinguish himself to all-star status, and that may be a lethal combination when the quarterback duties have fallen to a man with eight attempts in his intercollegiate resume, Casey Wright, and a true freshman, even one with the credentials of Putt, who threw for two touchdowns as a member of Canada’s under-18 team that beat the U.S. 53-9 at the International Bowl in Texas last February.
Coach: Warren Craney (sixth year)
Last year: 0-8, did not make the playoffs
Key returnees: Rec Adam Adeboboye, QB Jahmari Bennett, OL Jamal Campbell and DB Josh Small played in the East-West Bowl; DL Cole Austen played for Canada at the 2015 International Bowl in Dallas; DB Rees Paterson started all eight games as a freshman last year; DL Hussein Hazime was second in the league with six sacks.
Key losses: OL Trevor King, RB Connor Anderson, DB Braedon Cameron.
Recruits to watch: QB Brett Hunchak (Calgary) and his brother, Rec Colton Hunchak, both played for Canada in back-to-back International Bowls, 2014-15, and they both won silver medals at the world under-18 championship in 2014; Rec Jacob Janke (Edmonton) was also a member of Team Canada at this year’s International Bowl after playing for a AA state high school champion in Kalispell, Montana; DB Jakob Butler (Sherwood Park, Alta.) was a two-time International Bowl participant, and was selected to the 2104 Canadian team for the world junior championship.
Local content: None.
They don’t play: Ottawa, Windsor
Pre-season result: Lost 28-12 to Windsor
Last championship: York has never won a football championship
Synopsis: It looks as though the smart-alecs around the league are going to have to find somebody else about whom to crack wise—the Lions’ days as the league’s laughing stock appear to be over. Though reaching the playoffs this year might be an unattainable goal, York pulled four blue-chip recruits out of Alberta, no doubt in part because coach Craney also happened to be the head coach of the Canadian team at the 2014 world championship, a team of which all four of those boys happened to be members. Expect York to be better than it has been over the past decade—six wins in the last nine years, haven’t played a playoff game since Paul Martin was prime minister—but it may take all five years of Craney’s blueprint to overcome the losing mentality and fully turn this boat around.