McMaster wary of Laval dynasty
By Richard Zussman, QMI Agency
|Arnuad Gascon-Nadon (1), of the Laval Rouge et Or, during practice on the turf at Thunderbird Stadium on the campus of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC. Laval is preparing to play the University of McMaster Marauders from Ontario in the Canadian Inter-University Sport (CIS) 2011 Vanier Cup National Championship football game to be held in Vancouver at BC Place Stadium on Friday November 25, 2011. (BOB FRID/STR/QMI AGENCY)
VANCOUVER - The roles for the 47th Vanier Cup are clear.
When the Laval Rouge et Or and McMaster Marauders step on to the BC Place turf Friday for the Canadian university football crown, there will be no mistaking the favourite.
Laval players wear the aura of being superb athletes, and being part of the best program in Canada, McMaster receiver and OUA MVP Mike DiCorce said Wednesday.
"They have been a dynasty for so long," said. "Sharing a field with them is a privilege. At the same time knowing they are humans just like us and playing with them is awesome."
The Rouge et Or finished the regular season 8-1, with its only blemish a 17-12 loss Oct. 8 to Montreal. The Quebec champions breezed through the playoffs, winning the three post-season games by a combined score of 104-24. Coach Glen Constantin has the team on the verge of another championship, having defeated the Calgary Dinos 29-2 in last year's Vanier Cup.
"We work from week to week, we always find ways to challenge our kids," Constantin said. "We just want to make sure we are prepared and focused and ready to execute on the weekend.
"We are out hardest critics, we don't always feel like we are the favourite. What gets old is Laval has got the resources, Laval has got this, Laval has got that."
The Rouge et Or is the closest program Canada has to a U.S.-style college football atmosphere. An average of 13,500 fans cheer the team on in Quebec City home games, by far the best attendance in Canada. The program has a $2-million budget and five full-time coaches.
McMaster coach Stefan Ptaszek says his budget is 25% to 33% of Laval's and he is the team's only full-time employee.
The Laval program's money has been well-invested. Friday night, the Rouge et Or has a chance to win a record seventh Vanier Cup, breaking a tie with the Western Mustangs.
"We don't think about the past, the past won't make us win this one," said defensive end Frederic Plesius, a transfer from Baylor University. "The players who played here before are not here anymore, the new team that we have has to step up and win this game."
On the flipside, McMaster has never won a Vanier Cup. The team has appeared only once before in the national championship, falling to the Alberta Golden Bears 10-9 in 1967.
"We have nothing to lose here," Ptaszek said. "Our kids are going to spill their guts and play with everything they have and let the chips fall where they may.
"The pressure is on the favourite, the defending champion. We aren't just happy to be here."
The Marauders finished the regular season 7-1, with the only loss coming against Western. The playoffs have been a chance for redemption, as McMaster has scored more than 40 points in each post-season game, including a 41-19 upset over Western in London, Ont.
"We embrace the underdog role, there are some personalities in the locker room who really thrive on it," star quarterback Kyle Quinlan said.
"It is a lot easier to play as an underdog when you're not going out to try to prove anything."