October 19, 2017

Bisons | Playoff Hopes Still Alive

Photo: Chantal Zdan

The stakes couldn’t be any higher this weekend as the Manitoba Bisons (1-5) host the UBC Thunderbirds (4-2) in the final home game of 2017 at Investors Group Field.

The Bisons postseason dreams are hanging on a thread, and they’ll need a victory over the T-Birds to keep their chances alive.

The two teams previously met in week two of the campaign, with the host Thunderbirds coming out on top 32-18. It was a contest that featured a combined seven turnovers, with the biggest play coming on a 107-yard interception return for a touchdown by rookie UBC defensive lineman Elliot Graham early in the third quarter.

“We’re a much better team than we were when we played them, but so are they,” said Bisons head coach Brian Dobie in a press conference Thursday morning. “I’m really looking forward to seeing our guys rise to the challenge.

“UBC is doing a lot of things differently on their defence. One of the things about (T-Birds head coach) Blake Nill is he doesn’t stand pat with the hand he’s dealt. He’s very good at challenging his guys differently, so you’re seeing somewhat of a different UBC team now, so you have to prepare for them differently.”

If the Bisons are able to knock off UBC, they’ll be put into another must-win situation in the final game of the season against Saskatchewan, who currently sit at 2-4 and in the final playoff spot. The Huskies defeated Manitoba in the first game of the year, and so all they’d need to do in the season finale at home is not lose by more than 21 points. If Saskatchewan falls to Alberta (1-5) however, then the Bisons would just need to beat the Huskies and then hope that the Golden Bears lose to the 7-0, top seeded Calgary Dinos in their last game next week.

“The first part is in our hands,” said Dobie. “We have to find a way to beat UBC.”

Saturday’s 2 p.m. contest at IGF will also serve as the annual seniors game, and this year there are 10 players who will be playing in their last university game at home.

Highlighting the group are running back Alex Christie, safety Tyler Fong and cornerback Akeeno Williams. Christie and Williams are the longest tenured members, having both been with the squad since 2012, while Fong has been a member of the herd since 2013. Christie and Fong have also both been three-time captains for Manitoba.

“When we introduce them on Saturday, they will be the last two people out of the 10 coming out of the tunnel to be introduced, and deservedly so,” Dobie said of Christie and Fong.

“Their impact has been significant, and I would think that the experience that they’ve had in a quarter of their life in that locker room, in this program, has affected and impacted them, and I think that’s even more important.

The other seven seniors who will be acknowledged before the game are linebacker James Mau, offensive linemen Jordan Medal, Anthony Daley and Tom Clarkson, running back Jake Patko, defensive back Tanner Hamade and receiver Kyle Patchell.

“Finding your way, that’s what university and high school sports are all about,” Dobie said. “It’s about more than wins and losses and these kids can tell you what their experience was, and how it affected their lives.”