Fall means football!

The York University Lions football team opened training camp yesterday at the York practice field. The Lions reported for testing during opening and will hit the field this morning for workouts. The team will practice from 8am-12:30pm daily with the annual intra-squad game scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 28 at 4:30pm.

The Lions open the 2005 Ontario University Athletics (OUA) season on Labour Day against the visiting Waterloo Warriors. Game time is 2pm at York Stadium.

The Lions return 22 players with starting experience from last year’s team, 11 on offense and 11 on defense. York finished sixth during the 2004 OUA regular season, posting a 3-5 record and advancing to the league quarterfinals.

For the second consecutive year, Bart Zemanek enters the season as the number one quarterback on the Lions depth chart. Zemanek started every game for York in 2004 completing 89 of 187 passes for 1,172 yards and four touchdowns. Returnee Dave Munns and several rookies will battle for the back-up position.

The Lions will have three huge holes to fill on the offensive line following the graduation of Ntare Bainomugisha, Dan Filipe and Taylor Dubois Hammond. Claudio Tulipano, Reg Theriault and Dave Gauer lead the list of returnees. Tulipano and Theriault started every game last year, while Tulipano also participated in the third annual CIS East West Bowl in May. Newcomers to watch include Mark Gribbon of Georgetown, Ont.

Third-year standout Andre Durie (right) returns at tailback. In 2004, Durie was second in Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) in yards rushing (1,367) and touchdowns (16). A first team CIS All-Canadian and OUA All-Star, he tied a CIS record with six rushing majors in a 55-33 victory over Waterloo and became the first York player to surpass 1,000 yards rushing in a single season. As a freshman, Durie set a new OUA single game rushing record with 349 yards on 27 carries in a 25-17 victory over Ottawa in 2003. Also returning at running back is fifth-year veteran Bryan Wheatle. Last year, Wheatle started every game at fullback and was second on the team in rushing.

A veteran receiving corps is led by returnees Ricardo Hudson, Brad Peat and Robin Legault. Hudson, a 2004 second team OUA All-Star, was York’s top receiver last year with 30 catches for 416 yards and two touchdowns. Fifth-year slotback Brad Peat started all but one game in 2004 and was second on the squad with 17 receptions for 270 yards. Legault started six games in the regular season and finished with 237 yards on 11 catches. Jocelyn Courcelles has been moved from running back to receiver this year.

First team OUA All-Star and second team CIS All-Canadian defensive end Ricky Foley leads an experienced defensive line. In 2004, Foley recorded 32 tackles, five assists and two interceptions while leading the CIS in sacks with nine. Joining Foley are veterans John Ifejika, Sean Simms and Janson Kenny. In eight regular season starts last year, Ifejika recorded 22 tackles, nine assists and two sacks, while Simms added 10 tackles and two assists.

A solid group of linebackers includes veterans Geoff Gordon, Andrew Olechna, Brian Zuzek and Ronald Clarke. Zuzek led all York linebackers in 2004 with 26 tackles, six assists and two interceptions. Gordon recorded 18 tackles, six assists, two sacks and an interception in six regular season games last year.

The Lions will have two huge holes to fill in the defensive backfield following the graduation of OUA All-Stars Sam Opaleye and Clinton John. Opaleye led the team in tackles in 2004, while John was a three-time conference all-star. Highlighting the list of returnees are Will Kuechler, Jared Corbin, Jerome Walker and Raphael Osei. Kuechler started every game last year and finished fourth on the team with 25 tackles, five assists and one sack. Corbin started six games at linebacker in 2004, recording 21 tackles, seven assists, two sacks and two interceptions. Walker had 13 tackles, two assists and one interception last year. Osei, the team’s Defensive Player of the Year and Most Improved Player in 2003, returns to the York lineup after missing last season.

The departure of Andre Persaud means there will be someone new handling both the punting and place kicking duties this season. Receiver Robin Legault will take over the punting, while several newcomers will compete for the place kicking job at training camp. Jerome Walker was the team’s top kick returner last year with an average 18.7 yards. He was also second in punt returns with an average of six yards.

This article was submitted to YFile by Jim McLarty, sport & recreation information officer, School of Kinesiology & Health Science.