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West edges East in annual showcase football game

May 11, 2013

By CLAUDE SCILLEY

LONDON — With 66 seconds left in the football game, McMaster Marauders kicker Tyler Crapigna took the field and booted a 42-yard field goal to give the West team a one-point lead in the East-West Bowl football game.

A minute later, he was back on the field to try and take that looming victory away.

“Having a kicker try to beat a team twice from two different sides is different,” McMaster quarterback Marshall Ferguson said, after Crapigna, this time kicking on behalf of the East, missed from 45 yards, preserving an 18-17 victory for the West in the 11th annual game at Western’s TD Waterhouse Stadium.

Players for the game are selected from university teams from across Canada. They are nominated by their teams or requested by teams from the Canadian Football League, who use the game as a scouting showcase. In most cases, the players are seniors entering their final pre-CFL draft season.

As it turned out, there were no kickers nominated from any of the schools comprising the East team — universities in the Atlantic and Quebec conferences, as well as Ottawa, Queen’s and Toronto, the three easternmost teams in Ontario University Athletics.

Crapigna, therefore, was designated to kick for both sides. In the first half he was the only player to score, having kicked one field goal for the East and two for his own team. He missed his first attempt, for the West, and the last.

Laval’s Adam Thibault returned the second-half kickoff 101 yards for touchdown but otherwise, the game was nondescript. There were some outstanding individual plays but, as you’d expect of two teams who had been together for just a week, collectivity was lacking.

Two local players — Frontenac grads Ferguson, for the West, and Concordia linebacker Max Caron, of the East — and Queen’s Golden Gaels linebacker Sam Sabourin, defensive end Derek Wiggan, defensive back Andew Lue and quarterback Billy McPhee participated.

Ferguson, playing the second and fourth quarters, completed 10 of 22 passes for 90 yards. He threw two interceptions.

“The week was a great experience overall, all the guys and coming together as a team,” Ferguson said. “It’s a little bit different once you get into a game and I think that showed today.

“Billy and I were talking at halftime as we were walking into (the dressing room) about how it’s crazy the way defences can ramp up their intensity just on a dime. In practice we were shredding these guys. Then once we got in the game, we couldn’t throw a completion. Billy almost went the length of the field (at the end) so he must have figured it out but I didn’t exactly pick anybody apart today.”

Both quarterbacks said it wasn’t unfair to expect someone at their position to perform at a high level, given the short time to prepare for playing with unfamiliar teammates.

“I don’t like to hide behind that,” Ferguson said. “It is what it is and I knew that going into it. I was working with so many insanely good athletes. Matt Uren and I couldn’t get each other figured out because he runs a 4.4 40(-yard dash) and I’m trying to time out my arm with a guy at Mac who runs at a different speed.

“I don’t like to make excuses for it because we did have a week to get together. Unfortunately we weren’t able to produce a little bit more. It was tough but it was fun.”

McPhee, who played all but the second quarter for the East and completed 14 of 23 passes for 114 yards with one touchdown and one interception, said quarterbacks accept the challenges of adapting to new surroundings and situations when they take up the position.

“We sign up for the pressure,” he said. “Ever since I was 12 years old, throwing the ball with the guys, that’s what the quarterback does. You watch on TV and that’s how you get your name in the newspaper — you throw the game-winning touchdown, you get the team in position to get the game-winning field goal.”

The outcome of the game aside, McPhee said it was a good week.

“I learned a lot, in terms of concepts and the way certain teams do things. It makes you a better player because you want to adapt your game and see how good players adapt. That’s what the best players do.”

Ferguson said the week, which also involved individual skill, strength and agility testing, was a good experience.

“It was great to meet a lot of these people and make a lot of good connections,” he said. “There are always these names that you see that are putting up stats in different leagues across the country who you never get to meet. To come together with all of them and figure out who they are and what their teams do well and how we can improve from learning from each other is a very positive experience.”

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