EDMONTON – The Calgary Dinos held off a furious second-half comeback from the Alberta Golden Bears, holding on for a thrilling 41-31 win in the season opener on Friday night at Foote Field.
Calgary took a 30-13 lead into the half, before the Golden Bears stormed back in the second, eventually cutting the lead down to 34-31 late in the fourth. However, an interception returned for a touchdown by Deane Leonard with no time left sealed the Dinos win.
Brad Launhardt threw for a game-high 357 yards and two touchdowns for the Bears, but also tossed three interceptions in the loss. The Bears outgained the Dinos 483-376, but five total turnovers, including a fumbled punt in the fourth, cost Alberta a stunning upset win.
Penalties also cost both teams at crucial times throughout the game, with the provincials foes combining for 51 flags and 395 penalty yards.
Reigning Canada West MVP Adam Sinagra finished with 268 yards on 17/31 passing for Calgary, with one touchdown and one interception. The fifth-year Dino pivot also added a rushing touchdown in the first half, tossing for his lone TD pass in the second quarter to Jalen Philpot.
Backup Dinos QB Josiah Joseph also accounted for a pair of touchdowns in the first half, one through the air and one on the ground. Joseph scrambled in from one yard out late in the first, before finding Zach Newman on third and goal for a touchdown early in the second.
Launhardt’s 23-yard TD strike to Daniel Bubelenyi was the Bears lone major score in the opening half.
The Bears defence was the reason behind their second half turnaround, as they held Sinagra and the Dinos offence in check.
Launhardt found rookie Bear Tanner Buchanan for his first career score in the third, trimming the Dino lead to 11.
First-year Bear Jayden Dalke highlighted the Bears resurgent second half defence, picking off Sinagra early in the fourth, returning it 35 yards for a pick-six. Dalke also finished with a game-high 7.5 tackles
Down 34-31, the Bears were able to march near midfield with 20 seconds left in the fourth. However, Launhardt’s out-route was picked off by Leonard, who returned it 62 yards for the game-ending major score.
Calgary will return home next weekend, as they host the 1-0 Manitoba Bisons at McMahon Stadium on Friday night. Alberta will visit the Regina Rams on Friday in the Canada West Showcase Game.