What started as a season with so much promise for the University of Regina Rams quickly became a nightmare but it all comes to an end Friday.
The Rams will end a roller-coaster of a season at Mosaic Stadium when they meet the University of Saskatchewan Huskies in their Canada-West finale.
Early in the season, this showdown was looking like it could determine which one of the teams would be hosting a Canada-West playoff game. But that all changed during the bye week when U Sports ruled the Rams had to forfeit their three victories due to having an ineligible player on their roster.
The ruling put the Rams at the bottom of the standings. While there was still a small glimmer of hope for a playoff appearance that was dashed away last week with the team’s loss to the Calgary Dinos.
Head coach Stephen Bryce said all they can focus on now is their final game and becoming the provincial champs between the two rivals.
“End the season on a winning note for a number of ways, send out our seniors and our fifth-year guys with a win, it helps with recruiting, it just helps with the overall morale beating the Huskies at anything,” Bryce said.
He said the team is not happy knowing their season comes to an end Friday.
“We think we’re a better team, I think it’s bad for a number of reasons. I think there will be a lesser team in the playoffs, I don’t think it’s a win for Canada-West, I don’t think it’s a win for U Sports. I don’t think it’s a win for anybody, I think this is a lesson for everyone going forward that we have to do a bunch of things differently,” Bryce said.
A compassionate review was done, which allowed the player to become eligible but it did not give the team their wins back.
Bryce said had they caught the eligibility issue earlier in the season, things would’ve been different.
“It was something that slipped through the cracks and was made evident to us after the fact,” Bryce said. “It hurt 100 players but it is what it is at this point.”
Two of those 100 players affected are some of the best offensive weapons in Rams history.
Atlee Simon will suit up for his final game with the team and will leave as the school’s all-time leading rusher.
Another player who will see their University football career end is the U Sports all-time leading passer Noah Picton.
“He’s a great individual, an extremely smart guy and he’s helped me out a ton in the last four years, I can’t thank him enough for everything he’s done for me and I’m hoping for a positive future for himself in the CFL,” fourth-year wide receiver Ryan Schienbein said.
Schienbein said many of the players want to go out and win the game for the players who will not be returning to the team next season.
Unfortunately due to a foot injury — diagnosed as septic arthritis and a broken sesamoid bone — Picton might not be able to suit up one last time in the green and gold.
“He really wants to play and he really wanted to play last week and he was upset, we were going to fly him out last-minute so that he could get in the game, he’s a competitor and he’s upset by everything’s that gone on but he also just wants to get on the field and make a difference,” Bryce said.
He said they are being cautious around him due to the severity of the injury.
Another issue which added to the Rams off-field issues this season was one of their player’s getting charged with assault.
Bryce said they have to wait to see what happens in the courts and with the University with the player to determine what his future will be. He has been suspended from all team activities while the matter is before the courts.
Kickoff for the game is at 7 p.m. at Mosaic Stadium.