Dalhousie Tigers

RICK RIVERS" REPORT - 2021 AFL Championship Game Edition


Football is the consummate team sport and Dalhousie University fielded the consummate team in all three phases of the championship game in their 40-14 victory over the University of New Brunswick Red Bombers. You could not have ordered any better weather for a November day, as over one thousand fans watched as both teams felt each other out in the first quarter.

The Tigers put a short drive together to open the scoring on a 32-yard field goal by Okyay Kepenek. Early in the second quarter, Kepenek boomed a long punt for a single. A six-yard run by the league’s scoring leader, Dylan Waugh, put Dal up 10-0. Reid Marchand connected on his five PATs that day. But “big foot” Kepenek added another point, this time on a kickoff single.

Defensive co-ordinator, Dave Kelly, knew if they controlled QB Hunter Sturgeon that would mean the game. He wanted the Tiger “D” to get to him early and limit his running. The UNBF QB was stymied by different fronts, a variety of blitzing and good outside in contain. Josh Byron, Nate Whidden and Kevin Dickens played a big part in keeping the Red Bombers to no score at halftime. Meanwhile, a Chris Duplisea to Aiden Keefe 24-yard completion, left the ball on the one yard line. A QB sneak major saw the black and gold up 19-0 at the half.

Earlier in the season, one of the game officials who played at a high university level said the Tiger “O” was the best and that included the AUS. Ben Rossong’s “O” is based on his experience at Western and a little from the NCAA and the CFL. Dal’s stellar line play along with the action of their backs and receivers saw the Cats averaging 52 points per game during the regular season. Midway through the third quarter, the above combination resulted in Waugh scoring two 14-yard TDs in two minutes, putting Dalhousie ahead 33-0.

Meanwhile, the Tigers tough and stingy “D” did give up a Sturgeon longish run, followed by a QB sneak for 6 points at the l;35 mark of the third quarter. The Tigers responded with a tough ten-yard rollout run for another Duplisea score. Jonathan Marino added a major for the Reds on a three-yard run and Marcus Urquhart converted both TDs, giving the Tigers their third AFL title in five years of football with the 40-14 final score and that is GREAT!

In a post championship game celebration, Jim Wilson said he was proud of the team that head coach Haggett had worked so hard to assemble and coach. Later that afternoon, coach said, “I’ve never been so satisfied with these 80 guys, their energy and grit and how they left it all on the field”. He compared them to the 2016 and 2018 championship teams but gave this 2021 squad an edge. Haggett said, “they all checked their egos at the door and nobody was bigger than anyone else”.

Everyone knows that one of coach Haggett’s successes is in recruiting, whether it be players or coaches. He says his staff is as good as anyone’s and they have bought completely into his philosophy. Kyle Kelly, a veteran coach, and the Tigers have benefited from Haggett’s acumen. This year Kelly was promoted to assistant head coach and special team’s co-ordinator. This promotion was motivational for him and the Dal squad. Haggett also talked about the passion and love for his players and coaches. During the few hours of the celebration that attitude was rampant around the room!

Based on returning numbers, probably in excess of 65 players, the Dalhousie University football culture and success looks great because of GM and Head Coach Haggett’s tutelage.

A final shout out to the over 90 people listed in the championship day program. Players make sure you thank your position coaches, Lisa and her physio team (Ali, Jonathan, Raine, Jaden, Carolina, Sarah, and Casey on the helmets), Scott and Scott, Rick, Max and Mark, and especially to Jim Wilson and your head coach. Without any of these people the team (village) experience would not have been as consummate as it has been.

Here is to four of six titles in 2022!