Upper Canada College has managed to clinch first place in the CISAA senior boys division 1 football despite some crippling injuries that diminished their roster from 41 to 30.
Though the damage has posed problems for coach David Shaw, he’s glad the Blues have been able to work through them.
“We’ve lost one of our defensive backs, we’ve lost one of our best linebackers and also a defensive lineman,” he said. “If you would have told me in the beginning of the season that we would be playing without these three guys, I would have said we are in trouble.
“But we seem to have overcome that,” he added. “Guys have stepped up and it’s really quite remarkable, to be honest.”
Picking up the slack for the Blues is Pelle Jorgen who, though traditionally a running back, has played on the defensive and special teams units as well as at slotback.
“We’ve actually had a lot of injuries myself included,” said Jorgen. “I had a groin problem earlier (in the season).”
Anchoring the offensive unit is play-caller Seamus Power, who acknowledges teammates have had to step outside of their comfort zone.
However, Power warns challengers not to overlook the Blues’ depth.
“I think we have a great team,” he said. “We have a lot of guys who’ve stepped up, and I think our offence is also underestimated (because) they’ve been trouble (for opponents) all year.”
Physical ailments aside, a 4-1 UCC has claimed top spot from St. Michael’s and St. Andrew’s, also with the same record, because of their points-for and against differential. The Blues are ahead of St. Mike’s by eight and ahead of the Saints by 16.
Being atop the division doesn’t guarantee a championship. Last season St. Andrew’s was a perfect 5-0 but the CISAA final featured UCC (who finished 4-1) beating the Saints in thrilling double-overtime match, 40-34.
Still, Jorgen says the coaches keep the players grounded by reminding them that they are not the same team that won the title last season.
“We can’t claim to be that team, since half the guys are gone,” he said.
While the team is smaller, younger, Shaw doesn’t see that as a weakness, as speed and agility tip the balance for them.
“We make decisions very quickly and the guys really understand what the other teams are trying to do,” he said. “They really have been reacting well, which is great to see as a coach.”
UCC is set to play Trinity College Bears in the semifinals Oct. 29, with the Kerry Blues taking on St. Andrew’s. Followed by the finals on Nov. 9.
For Power, the focus is going to be on preparation for their tilt against Trinity. As for the rest of the games, he’s taking laissez-faire approach.
“Right now we’re looking at each game as it comes and not looking past them.”
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