Lions ready to roar against Waterloo in season opener

The 2016 Ontario University Athletics (OUA) campaign officially gets underway on Sunday, Aug. 28 when the York University Lions football team hosts the Waterloo Warriors in the season opener for both teams.

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Kick-off is set for 1pm at Alumni Field (previously York Stadium) and the game can also be seen live online on OUA.tv.

It’s a big match-up right off the bat for both programs as they will look to begin the year 1-0 against a familiar opponent. The two squads have played a number of thrilling games in recent years, including last season when the Lions earned a 23-14 victory over the Warriors on the road in Waterloo, Ont. Before that, the last three contests all ended within two points or less: York pulled off a 20-18 overtime win in 2011, while in 2012 and 2014 the Warriors won by a single point.

For the Lions, Sunday’s game is a chance to show the hometown fans how far they’ve come this off-season. A second straight impressive recruiting class and significant improvement by the team’s young veterans have a lot of people talking, and expectations are higher than they have been in years. The last time they played at home was in the 2015 season finale, when they came within one point of a huge upset victory over nationally ranked Queen’s, and the Lions will be looking to put forth a similar strong showing against Waterloo.

Quarterback Brett Hunchak (Calgary) and receiver Colton Hunchak (Calgary), both now sophomores, were tremendous in that game against the Gaels, with Brett going 34-of-49 for 381 yards and Colton catching 13 balls for 135 yards. Along with OUA rookie of the year Jesse Amankwaa (Etobicoke, Ont.), who amassed 689 yards on 137 rushes, they were a big reason why the Lions averaged nearly 100 more yards per game than they had in 2014 and that kind of production will be required again to lead the offence down the field.

The offence will operate under a new coach this year after the hiring of former Vanier Cup-winning quarterback Kyle Quinlan as the team’s offensive coordinator.

The defence was marginally better last season compared to 2014, but promises to be vastly improved this season and head coach Warren Craney, also the team’s defensive coordinator, believes this year’s unit is the best he’s ever coached at York. An already strong secondary, led by fifth-year defensive back Josh Small (Pickering, Ont.), has been augmented with some new size on the defensive line and a trio of talented rookie linebackers and the improvements should make a big difference on the scoreboard.

The Warriors, meanwhile, are also rebuilding under second-year head coach Chris Bertoia and are seeking a victory to start the year after going winless last season. They played a preseason game against Windsor last weekend, falling 39-18 on the road.

Tickets can be purchased online at yorkulions.ca/ticketing in advance, or at the gate on game day.

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