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Vanier titans ready
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Vanier titans ready
By Joel Brown
Just two years removed from junior football and a few games after a mediocre 4-4 season, the Regina Rams believe they are now ready to join the elite ranks of Canadian university football in the 2000 edition of the Vanier Cup tomorrow.
There's just one problem. In order to take away the top prize, they'll have to get by the Ottawa Gee Gees in order to take the top prize in Canadian university football, a team that has been nationally ranked in the top five all season long.
Over their last two games, the Gee Gees have been able to shut down both the defending Vanier Cup champions Laval Rouge et Or in the Ontario-Quebec Interuniversity Football Championship and the Ontario University Athletics champion McMaster Marauders in the Churchill Bowl two weeks ago.
So would it make for a fairy tale ending for the Rams to pull out an upset victory?
"I tell you what Cinderella don't play football and I don't wear glass slippers," said Regina quarterback Darryl Leason, who is convinced his team should not be considered underdogs.
Ottawa head coach Marcel Bellefeuille agreed with Leason's assessment.
"They could have been easily 6-2 this year," Bellefeuille said. "They've got a great team from top to bottom. It may be a bigger surprise that we are here."
Still, it's hard to believe anyone in the country thought heading into this season the Rams had a chance to be one of the last two remaining teams, especially after their 0-8 record last year. After being one of the strongest junior programs in the country, the team found the adjustment to the Canada West conference a difficult one.
Rams head coach Frank McCrystal said the difference this year has been the addition of seasoned players, like the 26-year-old Leason, and the maturation of the core players.
"The players that took their lumps last year got a year older," he said.
Regina's chances will rest on its ability to get past the tough Ottawa defence, which is widely recognized as being the best in the country.
Leading the charge is Leason, who led the country with 2,277 passing yards during regular season and finished second with 16 touchdowns.
Slotback Jason Clermont is the Rams feature receiver, while running back and kick returner Neal Hughes, will look to duplicate his feats of last week when he made two critical returns totaling 147 yards in the final quarter to win the Atlantic Bowl against St. Mary's.
On defence, Rams linebacker Misha Bosovich finished third in the Canadian Intercollegiate Athletic Union with 58 tackles.
"They play a lot of zone defence and they've got the athletes to do it," Leason said. "They often force offences into mistakes."
According to Gee Gee defensive end Steve Alexandre, control of the game will rest in the hands of the Ottawa defence.
"It's us against us. If we lose, it's because we've beaten ourselves."
Back in action this week for the Gee Gees' offence is Hec Crighton nominee and quarterback Phil Cote, who has been out for Ottawa's last two games after sustaining a severe ankle sprain.