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Zerr, Baker headed to Vanier Cup championship

Face Western University Mustangs Saturday
Mason Nyhus Noah Zerr 72
Noah Zerr readies to protect U of S quartberback Mason Nyhus.
LANGENBURG - The circumstances may be a little different, but the results are a run at a national championship.

The University of Saskatchewan Huskies will vie for the Vanier Cup after winning the Uteck Bowl in Montreal, Que. on Nov. 27. Led by Yorkton-area veterans Noah Zerr and Sam Baker, the Huskies defeated the Montreal Carabins 14-10 in a defensive affair with cold weather conditions.

The U. of S. now faces the Mitchell Bowl-winning Western University Mustangs for the Canadian U-Sports championship in Quebec City, Que. on Saturday (Dec. 4). The Mustangs earned their berth to the final by defeating the St. Francis Xavier X-Men 61-6.

After the cancellation of the 2020 football season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Huskies opened their return season with a loss to the University of Calgary Dinos before running the board through the rest of the season for five wins and a loss and first place in the Canada-West standings.

The 2021 Hardy Cup, the Canada West final, took place in Saskatoon on Nov. 20. Zerr and his teammates claimed the university’s 20th cup by defeating the University of Manitoba Bison 45-17 on Nov. 20. It was the Huskies’ third consecutive bid at the Western Canadian championship.

Zerr, a Langenburg, Sask. product and Yorkton Regional High School alumnus, is finishing his fourth season of eligibility at the U. of S. The six-foot, seven-inch, 330-pound offensive lineman says his team’s success in 2021 was, in part, due to that one-year furlough.

For the most part, that year (off) kind of brought us together,” Zerr said earlier this month. “The whole team was separated for close to six or seven months with no real contact, but we still had workouts and still had team meetings over Zoom. We might have lost a couple guys, but we ended up coming together as a stronger team after COVID. You really found out who was in it to win it and who was just saying that kind of stuff for the face value.”

Zerr suggested that looser pandemic regulations were beneficial for Saskatchewan-based teams, but the quality of talent in the league and its history of parity shone through by the end of the 2021 regular season schedule.

“You have to respect every, every week,” he said. “I know we’ve had a lot of success this year, but Can-West is kind of one of those divisions where anything can happen … You can never take anyone lightly no matter how good you think your team might play. We knew we had a special group, but you have to come out and execute every week just to win those close games.”

Esterhazy, Sask.’s Sam Baker is a Huskies receiver. Like Zerr, he said the team’s off-field culture has been instrumental in the team’s 2021 on-field success

“With the group of guys we’ve got here, I feel like the whole team just took on a winning mentality instead of being stat guys,” Baker said in an interview with Yorkton This Week.

“With that time off, you have a lot to think about without a year of football. Also, you have another year just working towards the following year. So just staying in the gym and staying in shape and doing all the right things is what propelled me.”

Zerr, meanwhile, has found he is enjoying the game more than usual after experiencing the lapse in play through 2020. This, combined with “laser focus” and the opportunity to practice with some of the league’s best players on a daily basis, giving him a chance to play with a more confidence.

“We have some really good players who make practice really hard, which makes our game-play easier,” he said. “We get to breath a little bit cleaner on game day just because you’re going against some of the best in that practice setting.”