Crack open a Clancy's and break out the Sloan MP3s... you're on the East Coast now. Presenting: the Saint Mary's Huskies.
In '06: 3-4 regular season, lost 32-24 to Acadia in Loney Bowl
Players to watch: QB Erik Glavic, RB Jacques Lumbala, G Derek Weber, LB Tim St. Pierre, DL Clayton Chiurka, DB Jeff Zelinski
Head coach: Steve Sumurah (2nd season)
Co-ordinators: Sumurah (offence), Mike McLean (defence), Terry Baker (special teams)
Last league title: 2004
Big ones: Sept. 15 at Mount A, Sept. 22 vs. Concordia, Oct. 13 at Laval
On the web: huskiesdogpound.com
Strengths: Glavic leads an offence that has three returning starters on the line, a big back in Lumbala and plenty of receivers. There's a nucleus here that's weathered the loss of Blake Nill to Calgary and Sumurah's transition to the top job. They haven't won in a couple years, so they're champing at the bit, especially the St. Pierre-led defence.
Mountains to climb, rivers to cross... It's more a case of the whole conference being under scrutiny
Last year, the take here was that the Huskies lacked a bit of an identity and that the dilemma over whether to be loyal to veteran QB Bill Robinson or give Glavic a shot would be a distraction. That turned to to be more or less true. Now Glavic is The Man and the 6-foot-6, 215-lb. two-sport athlete (he helped the SMU hoops team make a Cinderella run to the national semi-final at the CIS Final 8) could end up being the conference's nominee for the Hec Crighton Trophy.
Former Regina Ram Kyle McNeil will slide into the centre spot, with Weber moving to guard. Receiver Carl Hardwick was the team's offensive MVP last season and the return of Fraser O'Neill, who last played in '04, might give the Huskies more balance in the passing game.
Saint's Mary front four returns Chiurka, conference sacks leader Brent Shabley and added tackle Dan Schutte, who was an all-star last season with Edmonton in the Prairie junior league. Andrew Paopao (son of Joe) is supposed to help SMU get more of a push up front, which will help in a conference with pass-heavy attacks such as Mount A and Acadia. St. Pierre plays on the outside, but he's kind of the Huskies' analog to Joe Barnes with the Ottawa Gee-Gees -- a linebacker who is around the the pile at the end of most running plays.
Zelinski and Tyrone Roue are the focal points of SMU's secondary.
Justin Palardy impressed as a rookie last season, with a long field goal of 49 yards. He'll do the kicking and punting. His long snapper, Chad Moore, has graduated, so there's some turnover there. Hardwick has a fair bit of experience returning kicks.
"Smoo" is the one Atlantic school putting football on a front burner in a conference which has been more competitive nationally in men's hockey and basketball. On paper, they're set to walk through to the Jewett Trophy, but it's wearisome to read about winning a title and having however many all-stars in a 4-team conference. The best thing Saint Mary's can do this season is be competitive in the interlock vs. Concordia, if not Laval, since it's starting to become a general assumption that the Atlantic league is falling behind the rest of the CIS.
That's all for now. Send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.