THE University of Manitoba Bisons football squad stormed to victory in Alberta on Saturday and, with that, sealed their dream of a home playoff game.
'Everyone on the team genuinely believes we could win the whole thing'
It was a blowout tilt, as most would have predicted. The first time the Bisons took on the University of Alberta Golden Bears this season, they trampled them in a wild 65-41 win at Investors Group Field. This time, the defence was more on point, and the Bisons simply dominated the worst team in the CIS' Canada West Conference. The final score: 60-18. The Bisons' final spot in Canada West conference standings: 5-3 and second place.
That's good for at least one more game in Winnipeg, in the facility these Bisons players have fallen in love with, in front of the fans that have come out in record numbers to support the home side. They will now host the Saskatchewan Huskies at 7 p.m. on Friday night -- tickets are up on Ticketmaster, or available at the gate.
Worth remembering: until this year, they couldn't even play an evening game. There weren't enough lights on the old university field.
"Everyone on the team genuinely believes we could win the whole thing," said running back Anthony Coombs, the star of so many of this season's games. "It's the difference between last year and now, and it's exciting. We all just want to get out there, and get the job done, and stop talking about it."
So exciting was the playoff-hosting news, in fact, that Coombs didn't even hear he'd broken a Canada West football record on Saturday until the next day, when coach Brian Dobie told him. Coombs, so consistently a star for the Bisons this year, broke the Canada West record for longest rush when he blazed down the University of Alberta's Foote Field for a 107-touchdown dash. The previous conference high was set in 1979.
Ever the teammate, Coombs -- who rushed or caught for a whopping 1,280 yards and eight touchdowns this season -- credited his colleagues on the offence first -- "it's contributed to by a lot of people," he said -- and the experience he's earned through four years around this team.
At any rate, it's not time yet for Coombs and company to rest on their laurels, not when there's still work to do. The Canada West semifinal ought to be a doozy, as the Bisons and Huskies split their two games during the season, each clawing out one win on the other's home turf. What the Bisons learned during those two matches will have to drive them into Friday's game.
"They just play really hard," Coombs said. "They're not going to throw anything fancy at you... from an offensive standpoint, I think we just need to do the little things, and not try to make too much happen. Their offence will capitalize on any mistakes."