BURNABY MOUNTAIN — Jay Prepchuk turned 60 on Sunday, but he has spent a lot of his time channeling his former 20-year-old self this week.
Prepchuk, Simon Fraser’s first-year quarterbacks coach, is of course the school’s former record-setting quarterback from the early 1980s, a homegrown North Vancouver-Handsworth product who left the school having set virtually every meaningful program passing record you could imagine… some 16 in total as part of its pioneering era in the NAIA.
These days, however, the energetic Prepchuk is back on the top of the mountain once more, this time as the NCAA Div. 2 program’s new quarterbacks coach.
Interestingly enough, as Simon Fraser prepares for its final few practices ahead of Saturday’s season opener at the Div. 1 FCS Idaho Vandals (12 noon), Prepchuk admits he’s feeling a lot of deja vu.
“Hey, 40 years ago this same weekend in 1981, we opened the season in Idaho and I started against the Idaho Vandals,” Prepchuk said Tuesday morning ahead of a team quarterback meeting and late afternoon practice on the same Terry Fox field he himself practiced on over a collegiate career which ran from 1979-82.
Precisely four decades later, a very young Simon Fraser team under first-year head coach Mike Rigell returns to the Moscow, Idaho campus looking to play its first game following a cancelled 2020 campaign.
That makes a tough game even tougher as SFU begins work towards its Sept. 18 GNAC opener against Central Washington, one which doubles as an official home christening of the new SFU Stadium at Terry Fox Field.
Yet from Prepchuk’s viewpoint, there is no questioning the depth of the team’s quarterback room and the quality of the two young men who have waged a valiant and as-yet-undecided battle for the team’s starting quarterback job.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a competition at that position so tight, “ said Prepchuk the former UBC head coach and longtime high school head coach, of the way Justin Seiber and Brandon Niksich have pushed each other since the opening of camp.
As it pertains to his own quarterbacking experience on the hill, Prepchuk reflects on a team and an era in program history in which Simon Fraser football truly earned its reputation as a factory for CFL players.
There are simply too many to name at peril of exclusion, but Prepchuk safely estimates that from the 1980 and ’81 teams alone, each of whom got the chance to play at Idaho, that well over a dozen went on to play in the CFL.
In fact, within his pass-catching cadre alone, the numbers are stunning.
In 1981, Prepchuk could count future CFLers Jerome Erdman, Jacques Chapdelaine and Dave Amer among his targets. Erdman is now Simon Fraser’s defensive coordinator, and of course Chapdelaine is a former SFU head coach.
And in that season’s game against Idaho, the Vandals pounced on a couple of early miscues on their way to a 52-7 win.
“We were confident and we believed that we could win that game,” Prepchuk remembered. “We were a good team, we felt really confident and just had a bad turn early, just a couple of turnovers and they got up on us and that was the end of that.”
Forty years later, Idaho looks as tough as ever.
Yet as he prepared to talk to his quarterbacks this week, the old slinger himself didn’t have to spend any amount of time deciding where he was going to start.
“I just said to them that I know we can compete with anyone on our schedule,” he said.
Nice to know that the bottom line in this grand game never falls out of fashion.
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