Pair of Canada West all-stars among 5 Manitobans hoping to lead Saskatchewan to Vanier Cup title

Record-setting high school quarterback Dayton Black would have never believed he’d play in a Vanier Cup as an offensive lineman.

Five years later, the 22-year-old, who set records as a quarterback in his senior season of high school football, is preparing for a second straight appearance in the U Sports football championship game.

“I hate to lose, so I always expect the best and work my hardest to be in the final game, or be the best at my position,” Black said.

Black, from Brandon, is one of five Manitobans hoping to help lead the Canada West champion University of Saskatchewan Huskies to the program’s fourth national title when they take on the University of Laval Rouge et Or in the 57th edition of the Vanier Cup, Saturday at Western Alumni Stadium in London, Ont.

Defensive backs Charlie Ringland and Lucas Yanchishyn and kicker/punter Vincenzo DeRosa are from Winnipeg. Linebacker Jayden Engel of Brandon is also on the team.

Saskatchewan earned a return trip to the Vanier Cup after defeating the St. Francis Xavier X-Men 36-19 in the Uteck Bowl last Saturday in Antigonish, N.S.

The University of Saskatchewan Huskies celebrate their 36-19 Uteck Bowl victory over the St. Francis Xavier X-Men in Antigonish, N.S., on Nov. 19. (Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press)

Black is doing all he can to help his team erase the sting of losing last year’s national final 27-21 to the Western Mustangs in Quebec City.

“Having that experience in those big games is huge,” Black said. “We know we’re going in for a dogfight. Laval is a good team, but we’re prepared for the challenge and ready to bring this cup back home.”

Black has come a long way since his final season in the Winnipeg High School Football League, in which he set single-season marks for pass attempts (219), completions (119) and yards (1,981), as well as single-game marks for pass attempts (43), completions (26) and yards (493) as the starting quarterback for the Neelin Spartans.

He was named the Kas Vidruk Division’s top offensive player and was a finalist for the league’s most outstanding player award in 2017.

Canada West all-star offensive lineman Dayton Black holds up the conference championship banner after the University of Saskatchewan Huskies defeated the UBC Thunderbirds to win their record 21st Hardy Cup. (Liam Richards/Photo Electric Umbrella)

Black was recruited to Saskatchewan to play on the defensive line, but transitioned back to offence, playing some tight end and serving as the sixth offensive lineman last season.

“The transition’s been good. It’s been a two, two-and-a-half-year process of slowly becoming the starting left tackle role for this line,” he said.

The six-foot-six, 295-pounder was one of 10 Huskies named conference all-stars, taking over the all-important left tackle position from 2022 CFL draftee Noah Zerr.

University of Saskatchewan Huskies head coach Scott Flory walks on the field after the Hardy Cup earlier this month. (Heywood Yu/The Canadian Press)

He attributes his all-star nod to strong coaching, including that of Huskies head coach Scott Flory, who enjoyed a 15-year Hall of Fame career in the CFL as an offensive lineman with the Montreal Alouettes, winning three Grey Cup rings.

Flory was a player with the Huskies the last time they won the Vanier Cup, 24-17 over the Concordia Stingers in 1998 in Toronto.

Saskatchewan has lost the last five times it played in the national final, while Laval has captured all 10 of its titles since 1999.

Black would love nothing more than to bring a U Sports football championship banner back to Saskatoon.

“It would mean the most for us to bring back a national championship back to our city and show the University of Saskatchewan is still one of the best university football programs in the country,” he said.

Ringland believes the key to winning Saturday is execution, with the team making the fewest mistakes likely hoisting the cup.

“We were really close last year … but at the end of the day, we had a couple little mistakes that [Western] capitalized on,” the former Oak Park Raider said. “This year we are focusing on the little things because the little things at the end of the day could really kill you like it did last year.”

Ringland, a fourth-year arts and science major, was also an all-star, leading the Huskies’ secondary from his halfback position. He said his individual success was tied to not having to learn a new position, although he did play at cornerback in last year’s Vanier Cup.

University of Saskatchewan Huskies defensive back Charlie Ringland was named a 2022 Canada West all-star. (Huskie Athletics/University of Saskatchewan)

He finished the Canada West regular season with 17 tackles, three interceptions and one forced fumble, anchoring a secondary that has allowed just 13.5 points per game in 11 games this year, including the post-season.

One win away from a national championship, Ringland believes its finally Saskatchewan’s time.

“As a team, we know what it takes to get there,” he said. “I think we know we are going to have to work that much harder this week and on Saturday to really finish the job that we want to do.”

Saskatchewan and Laval have squared off twice previously in the Vanier Cup, with the Rouge et Or victorious in a pair of defensive gems: 7-1 in 2004 and 13-8 in 2006.

This year’s game has the potential to be full of offensive fireworks.

The Huskies led U Sports with 348.1 passing yards per game. Laval was second with 320.3.

Huskies’ fifth year quarterback is ready for his final Vanier Cup appearance

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Duration 4:23

Mason Nyhus, starting quarterback for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies is in his final year with the team and returning to the Vanier Cup with his eyes on the prize