February 6, 2013

Huff a finalist for coach of the year

John Hufnagel of the Calgary Stampeders has been named a finalist for the Annis Stukus as the Canadian Football League’s coach of the year in 2012.

In his fifth season as head coach and general manager of the Stampeders, Hufnagel guided a Calgary team that was hit with a string of injuries — including a shoulder separation suffered by starting quarterback Drew Tate in Week 2 — to a 12-6 record and a second-place finish in the West Division.

The Stamps won nine of their final 11 regular-season games and Calgary was the highest-scoring team in the West Division with 535 points, surpassing the 30-point mark on 12 occasions during the regular season.

In the playoffs, the Stampeders defeated the Saskatchewan Roughriders 36-30 in the West Division semifinal before travelling to BC Place and knocking off the defending Grey Cup-champion BC Lions with a 34-29 victory in the West Division final. That allowed the Stamps to advance to the 100th Grey Cup, where they dropped a 35-22 decision to Toronto.

In addition to Hufnagel, who won the Annis Stukus Trophy in 2008, this year’s finalists are Mike Benevides of the BC Lions and Scott Milanovich of the Toronto Argonauts. Both of the other finalists have Stampeders connections as Benevides was an assistant coach in Calgary while Milanovich played and coached for the Red and White.

“Both Mike and Scott did excellent coaching work in 2012 and I’m honoured to be named a finalist for the coach of the year award along with those two men,” said Hufnagel. “I’m humbled by the nomination but I would point out that our success in 2012 was a team effort on the part of our players and the staff.”

The coach of the year award is voted on by members of the Football Reporters of Canada and the winner will be announced on Feb. 28.