Yianni Cabylis got a second chance — and he’ll get a championship ring as a result.
The Regina-born Cabylis is the long-snapper on the UBC Thunderbirds’ field-goal team, so he admittedly was feeling “terrible” when his snap on a late-game field-goal try was low during Saturday’s Vanier Cup against the Montreal Carabins in Quebec City.
The low snap kept UBC kicker Quinn van Gylswyk from even attempting the kick as the CIS football final wound down. But an interception moments later helped set up another UBC try on the game’s final play.
On that occasion, Cabylis’s snap was right on the money, van Gylswyk’s 20-yard field-goal attempt was true and the T-Birds won 26-23.
Cabylis, who described the bad snap as “gut-wrenching,” said he felt the need for personal redemption on the game-winning play.
“I’m just blessed that I got a second opportunity to get that snap down,” the former Regina Thunder linebacker said from Vancouver after the T-Birds returned home. “It ended up working out for the best.”
Thunderbirds defensive end Boyd Richardson — another Regina product — never doubted Cabylis.
The two were teammates with the PFC’s Thunder, they made the decision together to head to UBC in 2013, and they’re roommates on the coast. On Saturday, Richardson didn’t have to say anything to Cabylis after the first try at the game-winning field goal went awry.
“I fully trusted that he’d make the next one,” Richardson said. “That was his only bad snap all year and I had full confidence, when we kicked that last field goal, that the snap would not be an issue.”
UBC jumped into a 16-0 lead on the defending Vanier Cup champions and eventually led 23-10 early in the third quarter. But the Carabins scored 13 straight points to tie the game and appeared to have the momentum.
But the Canada West-champion Thunderbirds held on and, ultimately, made the plays required to set up van Gylswyk’s game-winning kick.
“We were able to handle them in the first quarter really well,” said Richardson, who finished the game with two assisted tackles. “We just had to get back to what was working for us and not worry about a couple of plays that ended up in points the other way.
”“We’re a young team, so us older guys kept the sidelines upbeat and ready to go,” added Cabylis, who recorded one solo tackle and one assist in the contest. “We tried to keep all the younger guys in the game and make sure everyone was focused to play all 60 minutes.
”And it took all 60 minutes; there were zeroes on the clock when van Gylswyk’s kick split the uprights.
The victory gave UBC its first CIS football title since 1997. Cabylis and Richardson left the Thunder one season before it won the 2013 Canadian junior championship, so the Vanier Cup is their first national title.
Reginans Boyd Richardson (left) and Yianni Cabylis hold the Vanier Cup after helping the UBC Thunderbirds win the CIS football title Saturday in Quebec City. Jan Richardson
The CIS final also was the final game of their seven-year post-secondary football careers.
“It hasn’t sunk in that I’m a national champion and it hasn’t sunk in that my college career is over, so it’s kind of bittersweet,” said Richardson, 24.
“It was an incredible feeling on the field. There was an incredible amount of emotion and to be able to feel it with that group of men, it was the best moment of my life.”
Cabylis, who also is 24, said winning a championship meant the world to him.
“From the start of the year, no one really gave us a chance,” he said. “People had us not even making the playoffs.
“To make it all the way with this group of guys is really special. It’s something that I’m going to remember for the rest of my life.”
(Photo: Yianni Cabylis, left, Tony Ganton, centre, and Terrell Davis of the UBC Thunderbirds celebrate after winning the Vanier Cup on Saturday in Quebec City. Jacques Boissinot / THE CANADIAN PRESS)