The Stingers football team’s season came to a close on Nov. 2 after a 40-8 RSEQ semi-finals loss to the Laval Rouge et Or.
It was a roller-coaster season for the team, who finished their regular season with a record of 2-6, but managed to squeeze into the playoffs. The team saw career-years from players like quarterback Adam Vance, wide receiver James Tyrrell and defensive back Khadeem Pierre. With those efforts Stingers managed to push perennially strong teams like the Université de Montreal Carabins to the edge in two close games. In those games, the team showed glimpses of a team that could be potential usurpers of what has been a historically top-heavy division.
On the other hand, this was the same team that gave up a 74-point shutout to Laval and got blown out by (an admittedly better) McGill squad. The rushing game struggled to find any footing until their playoff game, and the defense struggled at times to stop drives. The team had its issues, but some of the players were so exciting, that even in the losses, there were usually bright spots to look at.
With the 2019 football season having been wrapped for a couple of weeks now, it felt like a good time to sit down and look back on the season with second-year head coach Brad Collinson for a Q&A.
The team finished 2-6, but made the playoffs, what was your overall feeling about this season?
Overall, we took a step in the right direction. Are we there yet? No, far from it. But it’s a good step. We may have the same record as last year, but the culture and the atmosphere here is completely different than a year ago. One of our goals was to make playoffs and we attained that goal. Now the next goal is to win a playoff game. From there we’ll add another goal, then another. It’s a process, and like I’ve said from the beginning, we’re not going to skip any steps. It’s going to be one step at a time, but I think we took that first step.
Were there any players that stood out to you this season?
Jeremy Murphy as a rookie. I knew he was good. Did I expect him to have the year that he had? We always hope, but you never know. He stepped up. [Vance] and [Tyrrell] on offense, those guys had career-years. Being in your fifth year, it’s not ideal to have a change in offense, but those guys bought into what we’re trying to do and they reaped the benefits of it with their play.
Defensively, I was impressed with Derek Achaempong. As a young [defender], he improved every single day and near the end of the season, he was making plays you would expect out of a fourth or fifth year guy and he’s a second year. The future’s bright there. Overall the atmosphere and the way the kids bought into what we’re trying to do, that’s the biggest point I’m trying to come back to is we asked a lot from them, and a lot jumped in blind and weren’t too sure what to do. Some of the guys before we even had our coordinators and our coaches settled. To see them flourish underneath the new leadership has been great.
With the season over, do you have a favourite play from the season?
The win against Sherbrooke at home with that last second field goal was pretty special. I come back to the fade that Adam [Vance] threw to James [Tyrrell] against Montreal to put us in scoring position, that’s a pretty special play.
A lot of U Sports firsts for some of these kids. Jeremy Murphy’s first touchdown, Mancini’s first touchdown last week, Khadeem Pierre’s interceptions for touchdowns. Those were all special plays that I remember from this year.
Based on what you saw this year, are there any game plan tweaks you’re looking to make for next year?
We’re always looking to get better. We’re definitely going to sit down and re-look at our off-season training to make sure it’s on point with what we’re trying to accomplish. Strategy-wise, offense, defense, we’re going to review the film and see what it’s all about and see where we have to improve. But I think our schemes were pretty good. We always have to adapt, though, because teams are going to be watching our film now.
How are you hoping to replace the seniors class this year, with guys like Vance, Tyrrell, Jersey Henry and Sam Brodrique all graduating?
It’s always been a next man up mentality. You can’t replace those guys. They’re fifth year guys that bring a lot to the table. You just hope that the guys under them, that they’ve left a good footprint for them to step into by their actions and how they prepare. I actually thought those young guys took those steps and realized that’s the way you have to handle yourself as a university athlete. We’re going to go back to the drawing board and look at who we have and try to put out the best product possible. With recruiting, we’ll really define what we’re trying to do. Who’s going to be playing where, we don’t know yet. We’re trying to find better players each and every year.
Obviously, the team went through some losing streaks during the season, how do you keep players motivated and on track despite those stretches when things aren’t translating on the field?
It’s not hard to motivate these kids. It’s not a very long season, they put a lot of work into it, they know what they’re here for, they’re here to compete. They knew what they signed up for playing in the RSEQ.
It took some time for us to even score our first touchdown. It finally happened against Sherbrooke [in week five]. But the kids never gave up. We were gaining yards, we just weren’t finishing. Victories come, and it’s hard. We play in a very tough league. The RSEQ is probably the toughest in the country. We have perennial champions Laval, and Montreal is no slouch. McGill also took a big step forward this year. You saw it this year. Each and every week, there was a lot more parity. Every week you could win. When you play close games against Montreal, and get some victories against Sherbrooke, and the second game against McGill, we should have won that game.
What are some of those steps needed to close the gap between Concordia and Laval and UDEM?
It’s going to be recruiting. Our recruiting this year is going to be huge. There’s a buzz about us, sorry for the pun. I think that Concordia is an option for people now, especially in Quebec in the Cegeps compared to years past. We’ve worked hard on that.
We’ve seen every Cegep play at least once this year. I don’t think any other team in the country has done that. Especially in our conference, there’s nobody who’s done that. We went to every single spring camp this year, of the 30 Cegeps that play football, we were at every single one. I think we’ve checked some things that we wanted to do and establish some relationships in those Cegeps. It’s going to start paying off slowly but surely with some commitments coming up hopefully soon. The name of the game is recruiting.
What do you think you’re doing to separate Concordia from the other schools in this division?
It starts with recruiting and creating those relationships that we didn’t have before. We’re a great institution here, offer a lot of great academic programs that some other schools don’t. Being that option, and going after some French-Canadian kids is huge for us. There’s some very good football being played in french Cegeps, as well as english, but there’s only three [english Cegeps]. The other 27 are french. We have to create those relationships and that’s where we want to differentiate ourselves.
With Adam Vance graduating this year, do you think Olivier Roy will takeover that starting quarterback job?
It’s going to be an open competition. We have some other guys that are here as well. We’re recruiting guys as well. We’ll let it play itself out once camp starts and depending on who comes in January. For a start tomorrow though, Olivier would have the heads up on everybody.
I think the future’s bright. We weren’t too sure about that position but with him he’s shown us some good things.
Looking forward to next season, what’s one challenge you’re looking to overcome, and what’s something you’re looking forward to?
Replacing those guys that we talked about before is going to be a challenge. What I’m looking forward to is to see the progression of where we’re at. I think we have a good locker room, we have some kids that are excited about the off-season. I think it’s going to be a good year.
Feature photo by Mackenzie Lad, accompanying photos by Laurence BD