AFL CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEW: Hurricanes, Tigers prepare for heavyweight battle in Charlottetown

Tomorrow afternoon in Charlottetown, two football programs that have made impressive strides during the 2015 season will vie for the Atlantic Football League’s (AFL) Moosehead Cup.

Defending champions Holland College Hurricanes under the guidance of rookie Head Coach Kyle Quinlan will square off against second year Head Coach Alan Wetmore and the Dalhousie Tigers. Kickoff is 1:00pm at UPEI Canada Games Place.

The Hurricanes finished their regular season with a 6-1 record while the Tigers has a 5-2 mark.

Should the Hurricanes win tomorrow, it will be their third consecutive championship victory. While the Hurricanes are thrilled to be in the final, they have tremendous respect for their opponents from Halifax, Nova Scotia.

“We are excited to challenge for another Moosehead Cup against a very good Dalhousie team,” commented Quinlan.  “In my short time here at Holland College, Dalhousie has impressed as a team who is doing things the right way and is improving the level of play and professionalism within the AFL.”

Dal vs Holland College

While the Tigers equally respect the Hurricanes, they have set their sights on the Moosehead Cup.

“Holland College is a great program,” expressed Wetmore.  “Their overwhelming success has been well documented.”

“They are the template program for this high quality competitive league.  Of course we would love to kick their butt on Saturday.”

For the Tigers, their appearance at the championship validates the amount of hard work that has been spent in building the football program as a contender. Not only do the Tigers hope to be on the winning end of the final, but the team hopes it the start of something special.

“The Dalhousie Tigers are very excited and proud to have the opportunity to play for the AFL Championship,” elaborated Wetmore.  “It is a very positive thing for the 2015 team and the overall Tiger’s program.”

“The coaching staff is hard at work building this program for today and for the future. Clearly success goes a long way to helping that goal.  We are making great strides as a program and the current success the players achieved this year will definitely help but of course a championship would clearly help a lot. Our 2015 team has worked very hard this year and deserve a great finish.”

Dal vs Holland College 2

During the home and home series this fall, each team won a game.  Early in the season, the Hurricanes scored a 19-11 road victory over the Tigers.  In their last meeting two weeks ago, the Tigers returned the favour and defeated the Hurricanes 22-8.

For the Tigers to win the championship, they are going to have to shut down an explosive Hurricanes offence.  Led by dual-threat pivot Anton Sianchuk, the Hurricanes will rely on both the ground and air game and hope that will translate into points on the scoreboard.  Sianchuk’s main targets will be receivers Steve Knapton and Jeff Hillier as well as running back Carson Halliwell.

Additionally, the Hurricanes are just as sound defensively.  Their secondary is led by Jay Dearborn and Brandon Whitman while the defensive line is anchored by Scott Leeman.

“All of our players are going to have to step up and do their job and do their job very, very well in order for us to have a shot,” offered Wetmore of what the Tigers need to do to be successful against the Hurricanes.  “Mistakes and a lack of effort will ultimately lead to a loss.”

“We will do what we can to ensure that our players are prepared to over achieve come game day.”

Nick Hunsley

On the other side, the Hurricanes defence is going to have a difficult time containing the catalyst of the Tigers offence – pivot Nick Hunsley.

“He has been around this league for a long time and plays like a savvy veteran out there,” assessed Quinlan of Hunsley.  “He is a great leader and a great game manager.”

Ultimately, the Hurricanes have to shore their physical and mental play so that they can win their third consecutive Moosehead Cup and deny the Tigers their first championship.

“We will have to play disciplined and take care of the football against a very talented and well coached Dal team,” commented Quinlan. “They will make plays so our guys will have to be prepared mentally to respond in each moment when they do.”

“I am looking forward to a great game in Charlottetown!”

Kyle Quinlan Holland College

However, the one intangible that the Hurricanes possess is Quinlan’s experience in big games.  During his time as quarterback of CIS team McMaster Marauders, he guided the team to their first ever Vanier Cup and can impart his knowledge of how to deal with the pressure of such a big game.

“I have a huge amount of respect for Coach Quinlan as a player and as a competitor,” said Wetmore of Quinlan.  “I have seen that he has brought his high level of success as a player and person to the team he is now coaching.”

“He is no stranger to Championship games so I know the moment will not be too big for him or his team. They are a very well prepared team and I will expect the same come Saturday.”

Alan Wetmore 2

However, Wetmore too has experience when it comes to big games.  Prior to the Tigers, he was at the helm of the Sir John A MacDonald Flames of the Nova Scotia Student Athletic Football League (NSSAFFL) where the team reached the Provincial Tier 1 Championship Final twice (2010, 2012). Some of those Flames players that Wetmore instructed during his tenure with the Flames have followed him to the Tigers as well.

Being one game away from the championship is exciting for the Tigers but they have to keep their emotions in check because they know the uphill battle they are about to face on Saturday. Moreover, they hope one statistic that has been consistent in this series bounces in their favour.

“We have had two very close games between each other this year and will count on another dog fight this Saturday,” elaborated Wetmore.  “Each time, the away team has won.”

“I hope that stat stays the same one more time. They are the big dogs so we will need to ensure that our teeth are sharp and our bite is harder.”

Dal vs Holland College 3

For the Tigers, this is a special, unique experience this weekend that win or lose, they will savour together as a team.

“We will be excited to get on the bus Saturday morning to travel to the Championship game in PEI,” expressed Wetmore.  “Our coaching staff and our players are very close so we will enjoy all aspects of the day and make sure whatever happens, the day will be a great memory and experience for all of us.”

“A Championship game certainly makes all the sacrifice and effort worth it.  We wish the Hurricanes good luck and to buckle up – the Tigers are coming.”

All Photo credits except Quinlan: Dalhousie Tigers Football











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