They may have the toughest job in Canadian university athletics, but things just got a little easier for coaches Bob Howes and Greg DeLaval, after U of T’s football team eked out a narrow victory over the Waterloo Warriors on Labour Day at Varsity Centre. The Blues defeated the Warriors 18-17.
With the losing streak out of the way, the team can now look to improve its record without facing such crushing pressure to win. “Our job is to take the focus off of winning,” says DeLaval, U of T’s new interim head coach.
The team will also have to learn how to preserve a lead. Too often in the past, the Blues have gone into the fourth quarter with an advantage, only to lose the game. “That’s a challenge,” says DeLaval.
The presence of veteran receivers Mark Stinson and Cory Kennedy and quarterback David Hamilton should help. Bob Howes, whose role is interim director of football, is optimistic about the team’s defence but worries about a potential lack of depth on offence. “We’ll have to use who we have, and that’s smart players, skilled players and some veterans,” he says.
Howes and DeLaval both held coaching positions with the Blues in the mid-2000s. They refuse to make any predictions about the team’s prospects this fall, except to say that every opponent will be tough. Among last year’s weakest Ontario University Athletics teams, U of T arch rival York has a new championship-winning head coach who is “fired up and ready to go,” says DeLaval. Windsor will be looking to rebound after a particularly bad year. “No one wants to lose to U of T. It says a lot about your program if you lose to us,” says DeLaval.