Wiser York eyes prize

FRANK ZICARELLI -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:44 AM ET

He lines up under centre, but Bart Zemanek understands he is under extreme scrutiny.

It goes with the territory of playing the high profiled position of quarterback, and Zemanek welcomes the pressure, the second-guessing and the challenge.

A year ago, Zemanek admits that, at times, he wilted when opposing defences took away his initial read.

There were too many occasions when Zemanek would force throws into coverage, not take advantage of the talent that surrounded him and was brutally honest in placing the blame on his shoulders following two losses.

"I went through every situation last year, mainly negative, you could possibly go through,'' the York Lions quarterback said.

"Now, I'm a lot more mentally tough, more mentally focused and I have a better understanding of the offence."

Zemanek enters his third year of eligibility at York and second as its quarterback incumbent.

He spent the off-season getting his body and mind tougher, dedicated countless hours of watching video with York's coaching staff and feels he is better prepared to lead a Lions team that is eyeing a championship.

York features one of Canadian university's most prolific players in running back Andre Durie, a first team all-Canadian who rushed for 1,367 yards and scored 16 touchdowns, including a CIS-tying six majors against Waterloo, York's opponent in Monday's season opener.

At receiver, York fields an athletic group led by Ricardo Hudson, the team's leader in 2004, Kareem Polydore, Brad Peat and Robin Legault.

While the offensive line lacks experience and lost three starters, the presence of fourth-year lineman Claudio Tulipano provides a calming influence and an all-important anchor for the crew.

The university added former two-time Hec Crighton winner Tommy Dennison as quarterback's coach, and from afar it would appear that all the pieces are in place for York's offence to flourish this year.

And that's where Zemanek enters into the equation.

"I simply have to make better decisions,'' he said. "I have to manage the game better. What I've learned, and have really come to appreciate, is that it's not up to me to win games.

"It's up to me not to lose games. This year I want to spread the ball and put players in a position to succeed. If I'm able to do that, we'll have a very good year."

CONFIDENT

Both Tulipano and Durie say they saw a more confident Zemanek during training camp.

"You can just see the growth in Bart,'' Tulipano said. "He's worked hard in the off-season and he's ready to lead us."

One of the keys for York is to not rely so much on Durie, who again will be the focus of every opposing defence.

Zemanek knows it and it's up to him to make sure players get their touches and opportunities to excel.

"There's enough leadership on this team where no one single player should feel it's up to him for us to win,'' Durie said. "We want to take it to the next level. Bart wants to take it to the next level and the mood around our team is a lot more intense.

"We're going to do whatever it takes, and it's that attitude and approach every player is taking into the season."


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