They made the playoffs for the first time in five years but a second straight loss to the No. 3-ranked Calgary Dinos ended the 2012 season for the University of Manitoba Bisons football team on Saturday.
The four-time defending Canada West champion Dinos beat the unranked Bisons 57-18 in the Canada West semifinal at McMahon Stadium.
"We're all feeling pretty down and depressed a bit right now," said fifth-year Bisons safety and defensive captain Teague Sherman, one of 15 graduating players.
"It's hitting all of us that football is over now, for nine or 10 months for the younger guys, and possibly it's done for some fifth-years like myself."
The Dinos advance to the conference's Hardy Cup championship game next weekend against the No. 7-ranked Regina Rams, who won the other semifinal on Friday with a 31-9 victory over the Saskatchewan Huskies.
Manitoba also lost its final regular-season game 78-54 to the Dinos on Oct. 27 in Calgary. But the team was lamenting two earlier losses this season as they talked about what might have been.
"We underachieved in terms of where we were in the playoff structure. We had an opportunity to elevate ourselves but we lost two games in a total of 87 seconds to Regina and Saskatchewan," Dobie said, referring to late-game losses last month. "But to me, an important part of the season was the UBC game (a win at home to clinch a playoff spot). We had to win that game. UBC scored 27 straight points but we won and learned what it takes to make the playoffs. I think we took a step up in the process."
Sherman said the Bisons, nationally ranked in the Top 10 for eight of 10 weeks this season, are building in the right direction.
"We made the playoffs and that was the first time in my (Bisons) career," Sherman said. "For the younger guys, they've got one playoff game under their belts and can bring that experience along with the excitement of going into the new stadium next season."
The Bisons will have a quarterback conundrum of their own as starting quarterback Cam Clark is at the end of his eligibility. Clark was able to start in his fifth and final season after beating out backups Ryan Marsch, Marc Pacquette and Théo Deezar in training camp.
Dobie said those three players are expected back and could be joined by a couple of pivots he is recruiting.
"It's going to be very interesting for us because we have an open vacancy," Dobie said. "We'll either fill it internally or get someone who will be competitive in that spot."
Kienan LaFrance scored three touchdowns and all of Manitoba's points. The Bisons failed on all three two-point convert attempts. LaFrance scored majors on a one-yard run and catches of 20 and 30 yards.
Some history was made in the game. In the third quarter, after LaFrance's first touchdown, Calgary's Jake Harty received the kickoff at the goal line and returned it for a touchdown and a 49-6 lead. The 110-yard return was the longest in Canada West history.
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