Rookie Stamps QBs start battle

WES GILBERTSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:33 PM ET

CALGARY - Calgary Stampeders quarterbacking hopeful Steven Gachette feels like his football career is trending upwards.

North, anyway.

“I hope that’s a good thing,” grinned Gachette, a recent graduate of tiny Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Mo. “I was born in Florida and then coming from Missouri and bouncing up even higher, it’s just a new opportunity. And I love making changes and new opportunities. I’m excited.”

While Gachette is still getting accustomed to a larger field and bigger football, his main foe for the Stampeders’ third-string quarterbacking gig — fourth-round pick Brad Sinopoli — was supposed to have already reached his pigskin peak.

That’s because Sinopoli was born in Peterborough, Ont., and there’s a long-standing stigma that Canadian quarterbacks and the Canadian Football League don’t mix.

As Sinopoli has been repeatedly reminded since being selected in last month’s CFL Draft, Giulio Caravatta was the last Canuck to start at quarterback in the three-down football ranks, taking first-string snaps for the B.C. Lions in 1996. Only two other homegrown gunslingers — Toronto Argonauts sophomore Danny Brannagan and Edmonton Eskimos wannabe Marc Mueller — even scored training camp invites this spring.

As the Stamps kicked off rookie camp Thursday at McMahon Stadium, the 23-year-old Sinopoli continued his quest to prove his arm is more important than his birth certificate.

“People are always talking about it,” Sinopoli said. “It’s always going to be with you, so you just have to deal with it.”

Sinopoli and Gachette, who are sharing a room in the dorms at the University of Calgary, are both coming off eye-opening collegiate campaigns.

Sinopoli won the Hec Crighton Trophy last season after leading all CIS signal-callers with 2,756 passing yards, 22 touchdown strikes and 184 completions in eight regular-season outings.

The University of Ottawa Gee-Gees standout also racked up 534 yards rushing on just 42 attempts, finishing tops in the country with an impressive average of 12.7 yards per carry.

Gachette, meanwhile, starred for the Southern Baptist Bearcats in NCAA Div. II, winning the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association player of the year honour for the third time in four post-secondary seasons.

The 22-year-old owns a long list of single-game and career records at the school, having racked up 12,227 passing yards and 94 TD tosses.

But as of Thursday morning, all Sinopoli and Gachette are after is an opportunity to apprentice under Stamps star Henry Burris and backup Drew Tate — both imports. Receiver Reggie McNeal is also taking reps under centre.

“They’re guys that are willing to help, and I’m excited to learn from someone who has a Grey Cup ring and somebody who has been in the league,” Gachette said. “And I’m also learning from (Sinopoli) because he knows the game more than I do.

“We’re both learning the system. We go back to the room and we just talk, like we’ve always known each other.

“I don’t feel like it’s a battle right now, and we’re both learning. The best man is going to win.”


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