BURNABY MOUNTAIN — Week 4 and Seniors Day are two things that don’t go together in the lexicon of football, yet with summer barely over and the seats at the new SFU Stadium at Terry Fox still squeaky clean, that is the scene which has been set this Saturday night at Terry Fox Field.
A curious schedule which had SFU playing the entirety of its three home games this season in consecutive fashion turned to just two games when Texas Permian Basin cancelled its Oct. 2 Burnaby Mountain visit.
So as part of a 6 p.m. kick-off Saturday against GNAC visitor Western Oregon, Simon Fraser football honours its 12 seniors, set to play their final home games.
We’ll cover that and more today as part of our four questions for SFU head coach Mike Rigell:
VARSITY LETTERS: How much has the rise of Riley Morrison to become an integral part of the pass game as a dependable slot-receiver, and one with jets, loosened up other parts of the field, including your run game? This is a player who caught 15 passes total in all of 2019 and now, through three games, leads the GNAC in receptions with 23 for 194 yards.
MIKE RIGELL: The plan is to alleviate and soften up the defence in the run game by giving him the ball and letting him do his thing and be elusive. We came in expecting big things from him and he is starting to blossom. For us, the short passing game is an extension of our run game. Right now we have some young guys who we are trying to get physically strong enough to handle these powerful defensive fronts we have been facing, so keep it to short passes, get the ball in the hands of our athletes and go from there.
VL: In many cases, all-purpose yardage can be a double-edged sword if the splits aren’t somewhat level, and the special teams have been kept busy based on the number of kick-off returns they have made already. That said, can you talk about your junior receiver Robert Meadors (the GNAC leader in all-purpose yardage, 230 kick-off returns, 33 rec. yards), who in the loss to Central Washington last week not only added 88 more yards on kick returns, but caught a key first-half touchdown pass from quarterback Justin Seiber?
MR: Robert’s an older guy so we expect a lot out of him, and as he’s gotten back to being fully healthy, the plan is to play him a lot more on offence. We can see he’s just scratching the surface of what he is capable of. With the kick returns, we just wanted to give him opportunities to catch the ball and be a natural athlete. He’s strong and well-built (6-2, 190) and that gives us the versatility to play him on the inside and the outside, and we like him inside because he can hammer the linebacker because he’s faster than them, and he can really deal with blocking with safeties and linebackers because he matches their size in a lot of situations. Plus, Meadors has a really nasty side to him, so we want to use all his physicality to go along with his skill set to put him in his best situations to catch the ball.
VL: Your defence showed a big improvement last week and trailed Central just 15-14 at the half, yet a four-quarter game against teams with deeper and more experienced offences has continued to win the day. As they continue to improve (SFU junior halfback Kolby Buljevic shone with 13 tackles and was named GNAC Defensive Player of the Week) and as the core leadership group of vets like Griffin Barrett and Brendan Lowry continues to show the way, what are your takeaways after three games?
MR: The good thing is that we are relatively healthy still after our first three games. We have asked a lot of them but they have accepted the challenge. Led by our seniors Barrett and Lowry, we talk about competing every practice… durability and availability and it’s a testament to how they prepared over the summer. It’s an overall process to bring the right mentality and the right physicality because we don’t just talk about winning the day, but going 1-0 at practice, in class.
VL: There will be a total of 12 seniors (see list below) who will be honoured Saturday for playing their final home games at SFU. As an example of a B.C. high school product who has stayed the course and been a longtime contributor along the front seven, can you talk about starting defensive end Isaac Evans who played his high school football for the Terry Fox Ravens in Port Coquitlam?
MR: Isaac has led that defensive line and I know the younger guys all look up to him. He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do and so much of it is not the kind of stuff that always shows up as stats. We are also excited about our future, and how that nucleus has been started by the guys like Brendan Lowry, Griffin Barrett and Isaac Evans who have built that platform for us, as well as all of them finishing their senior careers the right way.
SFU has announced that the following 12 seniors will be honoured at Saturday’s game: Isaac Evans (DE, PoCo-Terry Fox), Griffin Barrett (LB, Moose Jaw-A.E. Peacock), Brendan Lowry (LB, Okotoks (Alta.)-Foothills Composite), Dallas Dixon (WR, Sherwood Park (Alta.)-Salisbury), Jvalin Shah (Dubai-Arabian Ranches), Kees Metselaar (P/K, Port Orchard (Wash.)-South Kitsap, Justice Kremler (LB, Victoria-Mt. Douglas), Scott Maki (T, Yakima (Wash.)-LaSalle), Nicolas Klingshirn (LB, Munich), Paul Thomas (RB, Selma (Cal.), Paolo Lujan (RB, Surrey-Holy Cross), Devin Pott (DL, Mission)
LIVE OR STREAM?
It’s the final chance this season for local football fans to watch a game at SFU Stadium at Terry Fox Field, with kick-off against Western Oregon at 6:30 p.m. If you can’t attend, you can watch the live stream by clicking here where I will provide the play-by-play along with colour analyst Nick Sirski.
If you’re reading this story or viewing these photos on any website other than one belonging to a university athletic department, it has been taken without appropriate permission. In these challenging times, true journalism will survive only through your dedicated support and loyalty. VarsityLetters.ca and all of its exclusive content has been created to serve B.C.’s high school and university sports community with hard work, integrity and respect. Feel free to drop us a line any time at email@example.com.