Playoff bound

In case you missed it, the Bisons football team played their last game of the regular season this past Saturday, defeating the SFU Clan by a score of 31-28. For the most part the action was fast-paced as both teams utilized their strengths on offense to turn the contest into somewhat of a shooting gallery.

The Bisons took the lead early converting two first quarter SFU turnovers into a field goal and a touchdown respectively. The Clan fought back to take control of the game by the end of the first, but in the second the Bisons offence went on a tear, outscoring their opponent 17-0 to finish the first half. Running back Matt Henry punched in a one yard scoring drive while linebacker Thomas Hall added more cushion to the lead running in an interception off an errant Simon Fraser pass attempt.

In the second half SFU was able to capitalize on Bison turnovers and use their steady offense to battle their way back into the game, eventually leading the tilt by a score of 28-27. A field goal and a single from kicker Scott Dixon, however, were all the Bisons needed to once again take control in the late stages of the game. In the fourth quarter the Bisons defense were able to clamp down on SFU again limiting their opponent to no points in the quarter and thus sealing the victory for the boys in the brown and gold.

The win solidified the Bisons’ spot at third in the Canada West standings, ensuring a Nov. 7 post-season match against the top-ranked Calgary Dinos. This will be the first time the Bisons have made a playoff appearance since winning the Vanier Cup Championship in 2007.

Although the Bisons had already clinched a playoff spot with their victory over UBC on Oct. 23, Bisons head coach Brian Dobie assured the Manitoban that none of his players are in the habit of looking past an opponent or even a practice date. “Our approach hasn’t been direct about it,” said Dobie. “It’s been about tonight’s practice and then the next night’s practice and then moving toward that week’s opponent.”

Actually, Dobie’s approach has the team so focused on the present he questioned how many of the brown and gold actually knew the specifics about their own playoff implications. “I’m dead serious, we beat UBC on Friday night, I stayed a couple extra days to recruit, and we had our first practice [Tuesday] night and we didn’t talk about it. All we [were] talking about is the SFU game. We haven’t even talked about playoffs.” Surely, now that the Bisons have successfully closed out their season, earning both a winning record and a hard fought victory against a team that defeated them earlier in the year, this team is ready to talk about the playoffs. And Dobie was made sure of their enthusiasm for winning this last Saturday when he was doused with the ceremonial Gatorade bath moments after taking the victory.

But assuming this squad is, by now, hard at practice, preparing for the kind of game they expect to see against Calgary, it’s safe to say the coach has everyone once again focused on the task at hand, the one-day-at-a-time mentality. In preparing for Calgary, Dobie likely has the team, specifically the defense, readying themselves for one of the league’s biggest threats on offense. “Anybody facing the Calgary quarterback, Erik Glavic, is facing one of the best athletes in the country,” said the coach. What is encouraging for Bisons fans, though, is that the team defense has shown definite signs of improvement as the season has progressed. If the U of M squad can hold Calgary pointless for long stretches like they did to SFU this past weekend then our football team has a very good chance of moving on to the next round of playoff action.

The Bisons face the University of Calgary Dinos on Nov. 7 at McMahon Stadium. The winner will advance to the Hardy Cup game to be played on Nov. 14.