VANCOUVER — You can’t get to where the UBC Thunderbirds have gotten this season without some exceptional talent on the roster, and on the heels of their freshly-minted status as 2016 Canada West Hardy Cup football champs, two of the team’s most consistent performers found themselves in the spotlight on Monday.
Place-kicker/punter Quinn van Gylswyk, along with free safety Taylor Loffler were named the conference’s respective Special Teams and Defensive Players of the Week for their part in the ‘Birds 34-26 Hardy Cup win Saturday over the host Calgary Dinos.
Both players are expected to make their impact in the CFL following their CIS careers, and on Saturday, both looked the part.
Loffler, who finished the season seventh in the conference at 6.3 tackles per game, was a leading force Saturday from his spot at the back of ‘Birds defence, recording 11.5 tackles. It was the third time this season that Loffler, the former Kelowna Owls’ star, has been picked the conference’s Defensive Player of the Week.
Van Gylswyk earned top conference special team honours for the second week in a row. On Saurday, he punted for a 49.1-yard average including three punts that pinned the Dinos inside their own 20-yard line. The Victoria native accounted for 16 of his team’s 34 points, hitting on all four of his field goals with three extra-point converts and a rouge.
OFF TO ANTIGONISH
UBC will leave mid-week for Nova Scotia as it prepares to face the Atlantic champion St. Francis Xavier X-Men in Saturday’s national semifinal, the Uteck Bowl.
Although the X-Men will be playing on their home field in Antigonish, NS, teams from Atlantic University Sport have not fared well in national semifinal games, losing their last seven encounters.
As well, the St. F.X. program of recent vintage has not been a contender coming out of its own conference in two decades. Saturday’s upset win by the X-Men over Mt. Allison in the Loney Bowl gave them their first AUS championship since 1996.
The local tie to Saturday’s game?
UBC head coach Blake Nill, who won two Vanier Cup titles while coaching at nearby St. Mary’s University, started his university football coaching career as St. F.X.’s offensive coordinator.
KUDOS TO COLZIE
UBC defensive coordinator James Colzie III has kept the ‘Birds defence on a steady uptick all season, and with so many game-changing plays in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s win over Calgary, Nill couldn’t help but offer praise.
“Coach Colzie and his staff have done a phenomenal job with our defence,” Nill said of the former Simon Fraser defensive coordinator. “It’s been a learning process for coach Colzie because he hasn’t had a lot of experience with Canadian football. I can’t say enough about the way he and his staff have worked with our defence.”
UBC surrendered 49 points in a loss to Calgary in September, but cut that to 26 on Saturday.
(Photo: The 'Birds perfect 10, free safety Taylor Loffler flexed his muscles Saturday with 11.5 tackles in the Hardy Cup win at Calgary-Richard Lam, UBC athletics)