Calgary Dinos set to open U Sports football season

It’s being hailed one of the biggest games of the U Sports football season.

It’s big enough for the Calgary Dinos since it’s their home opener at McMahon Stadium.

But it’s also massive since Friday’s game (5:30 p.m.) features the Dinos hosting the UBC Thunderbirds in a battle of two highly-ranked university pigskin teams nationwide.

On a slate of big games across the country this weekend, with the likes of No. 2 Laval and No. 3 Montreal facing off, the marquee match-up in Canada West is undoubtedly at McMahon when the sixth-ranked Thunderbirds visit the No. 5 Dinos in a battle of two teams who could very well see each other in a fourth-straight Hardy Cup final, the conference championship, later this fall.

It’s called KICKOFF XIII, celebrating the start of the academic year at UCalgary and, new in 2018, opening Alumni Weekend. Tailgate festivities, presented by UCalgary Alumni and the Students’ Union, get underway at 3:30 p.m. in the east parking lot of McMahon Stadium.

“Players love seeing a good crowd out there — it makes a big difference on the emotional state,” said Dinos head coach Wayne Harris. “We’re looking forward to having a great crowd and a nice day.”

The Dinos and the Thunderbirds have quickly become bitter rivals, and this contest will be a litmus test for both squads early in the season — and just two weeks away from their next engagement Sept. 22 at Thunderbird Stadium in Vancouver.

Both teams are 1-0 after season-opening wins last week, and both are on the road in Saskatchewan a week hence: the Dinos visit the Huskies in Saskatoon, with the T-Birds in Regina to face the Rams.

Two of the top quarterbacks in U Sports football will face off, with the reigning national player of the week Adam Sinagra leading the Dinos against Michael O’Connor and UBC.

“We’re working hard to get prepared,” Harris said. “They’re an experienced team with a great offence — Michael O’Connor is a dangerous quarterback, and (Trivel) Pinto is one of the most explosive offensive weapons in U Sports, and they have a very solid defence. It’s going to be a big challenge for our young team, and we just hope to be able to put a good performance out on the field.”

The Dinos and the Thunderbirds have met in the last three Hardy Cups, with UBC taking the 2015 game and the Dinos winning back-to-back in 2016 and 2017, with Niko DiFonte the hero last year with his 59-yard game-winning field goal with no time left.

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