Taking place on Aug. 25 at 7 p.m. at Ron Joyce Stadium, this exhibition between the McMaster Marauders and the Saskatchewan Huskies involves similar storylines for both. Each will want to show the ability to contend on a national scale despite coaching changes.
The Marauders team continues to set their sights high with the Vanier Cup being the end-goal. While it is easy to get caught up in immediate results, the priority and gameplan will continue to be consistent success set up by phenomenal recruiting. One finals appearance will not be good enough.
“[Head coach] Greg Knox has now gotten through the interim year, and he’s done a great job with recruiting class … ranked second in the nation, so that’s good news,” said Glen Grunwald, Director of Athletics and Recreation.
Despite a 6-2 record last season and a narrow loss to Laurier in the OUA semifinals, an extensive amount of changes were made to the staff in order to better contend for the national championship.
- Larry Guarascia returns as a running back coach. He previously spent 12 seasons, from 2000 to 2011, in the same role at McMaster
- Jim Moore joins as an offensive line coach. He worked both in the same role and as a recruiting coordinator for the Toronto Varsity Blues from 2013 to 2016
- Asher Hasting and Chris Pezzetta, having finished up their historic careers playing for the Marauders, join as coaches for quarterbacks and running backs respectively
- Mike Daly and Joey Cupido, former McMaster All-Canadian defensive backs, join as a defensive assistant and a defensive back coach respectively
- Tom Flaxman was installed as an offensive coordinator after joining the staff as a Director of Football Operations in 2016
- Kyle Quinlan, MVP of the 2011 Vanier Cup won by McMaster, joined the staff as an offensive coordinator. He was in the same role at York during the 2016 season
On Quinlan specifically, Grunwald noted how he is able to serve a multi-purpose role and undertake the full responsibility of the job.
“He’s obviously a legend, and that helps with recruiting as well as coaching existing student athletes. I think he’s got the whole package, and we’re happy and very thankful that he’s back where he belongs.”
Knox also noted that the new structure and changes means that the full-time staff has doubled.
For this team, the expectations should be high despite the growing pains that may be needed to introduce faces new and old to the program.
On the other side of this game, the Huskies are looking to start a new era. Coming off a 5-3 season and a loss in the Canada West semi-finals, their storyline is mostly based off of a single staffing adjustment.
The departure of head coach Brian Towriss, having lead the team for 33 seasons, the national record in wins by a university football coach at 196, nine Vanier Cup appearances and three championships, left an attractive spot open.
The new coach, Scott Flory, played with the team during three Vanier Cup appearances and two championships from 1994 to 1998 before a 14 year career in the CFL. He then served as the elected president of the Canadian Football League Players’ Association.
“I knew early in my professional career that I wanted to be a coach and get into coaching. To come back here and have the opportunity to do it here is definitely a dream come true,” said Flory back in March.
Both teams have something to prove and questions to answer. While it may not be a regular season game, it will represent the off-season’s progress and serve as the first indicator for each teams’ long-term success or failure.