2002 Football

Inducted in 2017

Winning a championship is tough, defending a title even tougher. That was the challenge facing the 2002 Saint Mary’s football team.   How do you follow one of the teams that quickly fell into the category, ‘one of the greatest of all time’?

Head coach Blake Nill made it plain and simple from day one.   Getting back to the Vanier Cup was not the goal.   Returning and retaining the Cup was the goal.   Huge expectations yes, but Nill knew his team; he had recruited the team back in 98/99.   The Vanier Cup champions had lost a number of key players (13 starters) but still had leadership in positions that would ultimately pay off.   In 2001 the mindset of a champion had been planted. The stress was once again on ‘the team’; there were no individuals.   The winning culture was in place.

But the road of the ‘02 Vanier Cup was not without a few bumps due in no small part to injuries.

In the opening game, a 38-21 decision over the X-Men, SMU would lose centre Colin Oldrieve with a dislocated elbow.   In front of 16,000 in PEPS Stadium in Laval they best the Rouge et Or 26-24.   Coming home they best Acadia 44-12.    The next week SMU were seeking a 13th straight win over the Axemen and extending a 26 game unbeaten string in the AUS.   The Huskies lost 20-15.   The following week, SMU would fumble 9 times, again on natural turf, in losing to X 13-11.   Two games, two losses, no touchdowns.

The back to back defeats would prompt a ‘team only meeting’ called by Cartier Shields.   Whatever was said by the veteran defender – it worked. SMU responded with 4 straight wins, including a victory over Concordia.   They finished the season with a 6-2 record and a 4th straight AUS title.

In the AUS championship game Dean Jones, behind a dominating offensive line, ran for 121 yards in SMU’s 63-14 drubbing of StFX.

In the Churchill Bowl played on a chilly day at MacMaster, Saint Mary’s would face the #1 ranked and undefeated Marauders.   The Ontario school were already looking ahead to a date in Toronto.  Lack of respect for a large number of the Huskies with roots in that part of Ontario would be a huge motivation.   In one of the bigger games in the school’s history, the Huskies overcame the hostile environment and beat the Ontario champion 36-25.  Bring on ‘the Dogs’!
The Eastern based Huskies were now hoping to become the first team to repeat as Vanier Cup champions since Western in 76/77.   They were about to face the same school that had beaten SMU in the 1990 Vanier Cup, the University of Saskatchewan Huskies.   The unranked western school were 4 and 4 over the regular season.
Steve Panella, the game’s offensive star, completed 18/26 passes; All-Canadian Dean Jones ran for 105 yards and Joe Bonaventura, the game’s defensive star, picked the perfect time for a first career interception in leading the Eastern ‘Dogs’ to a 33-21 victory.
In 2001 SMU were too good to lose.   One year later SMU would earn the title against the odds.
Back to back championships are rare.   A moment to cherish for the University and Halifax.   Both would celebrate their special moment in CIS history.”

Team Members: Michael Allardyce, Mohammed Al-Shaghay, Nick Ancona, Scott Annand (Asst. Coach), Christopher Anthony, Paul Archer, Denis Arruda, Joey Arsenault, Gord Beattie (Asst. Coach), Aldrick Birthwright, Joseph Bonaventura, Wally Bowes (Film Technician), Jon Braddock, Chris Breckenridge, Anthony Brown, Timothy Burris, Colin Bush (Asst. Coach), Sebastian Clovis, Byron Conroy, Jason Currie, Laurice Downey, Jamaal Edwards, Richard Exeter, Ian Ferguson, Paul Fleming, Lori Forbes (Sports Information), Matthew Fox, Nicholas Gionet, Daniel Gossen, Dr. Nina Gow (Team Doctor), Erico Hakim, Gabriel Harvey, Samuel Huber, Pierre-Paul Huet, Troy Hutt, Micheal Johnston, Dean Jones, James Kelleher, Andre Knights, Alex Kyriacopulos, John Landry (Asst. Manager), Pierre Lefebvre (Asst. Coach), Greg Lewczuk, Kevin Logan, Alex Lubin, Stephane Lubin, Daniel Luke, Lisa MacDonald (Asst. Athletic Therapist), Tim MacDonald, Ted MacLean (Asst. Coach), Atnas Maeko, Steven Marques, Paul Mason (Team Manager), Dana Matheson, Nathan McHugh, Ralston McKenzie, Travis McPhee, Michael McPherson, David Metlej, Sean Mifflen, Jeff Moodie, Steve Morley, Leslie Mullings, Chakib Najm, Bruce Nelson, Chad Newhook (Athletic Therapist), Blake Nill (Head Coach), Erik Nowak, Colin Oldrieve, Andrew Oly, Steve Panella, Jeffrey Perrotte, Matthew Peters, Dr. David Petrie (Team Doctor), Ryan Peverseff, Philippe Roberge, Bill Robinson, Isaac Robinson, John Salmas, Steve Sarty (Asst. Coach), Nick Scissons, Kris Sembalerus, Justin Sevigny, Cartier Shields, Christian Simmerling, Dave Stala, Larry Stewart (Asst. Coach), Steve Sumarah (Offensive Coordinator), David Swasey, Joe Taplin (Asst. Coach), Olaf Tomiuk, Alex Torbert, Larry Uteck (Athletic Director), Derek Watson, Derek Weber, Jordan West, Colin White, Andrew Williams (Asst. Coach), Mitch Willigar, Sam Wood (Asst. Manager), Curtis Woodley, Andrew Conrad (Strength & Conditioning Coach), John McGowan (Videographer),

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