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Kicker Copeland set for season two

Copeland set for big year of kicking


 The 21-year old kicker from St. Thomas will have an expanded role

 with the University of Ottawa Gee-Gee's football team 


 August 27, 2023



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Ottawa Gee-Gees kicker Zachary Copeland warms up prior to a 2022 game at Queen's University. The 21-year old from St. Thomas will have an increased role in 2023, from kick-off specialist to more punts and field goal opportunities. (photo / courtesy Zachary Copeland)



By Rob J. Ross 

OTTAWA, Ont. - Zachary Copeland is expecting big things this upcoming Ontario University Athletics (OUA) football season, for himself and his team, the Ottawa Gee-Gees.

The 21-year old from St. Thomas is entering his fourth year at the University of Ottawa and second season playing varsity football as the Gee-Gee's kickoff specialist.

"It's been busy with training camp and we're getting ready for Waterloo," said Copeland this week from the nation's capital.

Ottawa kicks off the 2023 OUA season hosting the Waterloo Warriors Sunday afternoon.

Following an 8-2 regular season a year ago and a semifinal lost to Queen's, Copeland says the Gee-Gee's are eying the Vanier Cup, the national championship for Canadian university football.

"Our goal for our team is to win a Vanier. We've made that clear with all of our players and coaches," Copeland said. "We believe we have the players to do it. We have insane athletes. We have guys who have been here and have learned the system. We think we can do it this year.

"That's the goal for us."

Copeland is in line to play a key role in any success in 2023, his second full season. After red-shirting his first year in Ottawa in 2021, Copeland played all eight games, including two playoff games. for the GeeGee's in 2022.

As uOttawa's kick-off specialist, Copeland totalled 1,992 yards on 36 kick-offs, an average of 55.3 yards, during the regular season, third best in the OUA. In two playoff games against Windsor and Queen's, Copeland totalled 394 yards in seven kick-offs, averaging 56.3 yards, second for the OUA.

Game of the year for Copeland was the Panda Game, the annual clash with Ottawa rival the Carleton University Ravens. Copeland had the opening kick to a game the Gee-Gees won, 37-7.

"That's hard to top. Playing in front of 25,000 people," Copeland said. "The opening kick-off for the game was a surreal feeling. That was cool and everyone rushed the field after we won. It was crazy. That's definitely a standout moment."

This season Copeland is expecting more opportunities on field goals and punting.

Campbell Fair, selected by the Calgary Stampeders in this year's CFL draft, now with Saskatchewan, remains uOttawa's number one field goal kicker, but it's his final year.

"I'll get a lot more playing time this year," Copeland said. "Be worked in to a lot more games, so I'll get that experience, assuming next year I'll be doing all three of the duties, punting, kick-offs and field goals."

Away from the field, Copeland is a two-time Academic All-Canadian and been on the Dean's List twice for his program, Bachelor of Science and Human Kinetics, with a minor in business management.

"I do take a good amount of pride in school," said Copeland. "I'm looking into physio therapy as one career path, sports management, or potentially medicine. I'm not completely set on anything right now. I'm keeping my doors open and trying different things."

Copeland arrived in the city of Ottawa three years ago, after graduating from Parkside Collegiate Institute in 2020.

"Coming from St. Thomas, it's a lot different. A lot bigger city. There are a lot of different cool things to experience," said Copeland, pointing out skiing, skating on the Rideau canal and visiting Gatineau Park, on the north side of the Ottawa river in Gatineau, Quebec.

"The winters are a lot colder. There would be five feet of snow on my front lawn and I'd call my parents and they have green grass."

  team width= Zachary Copeland observes from the sideline during a recent practice with the Ottawa Gee-Gees football team. (photo / courtesy Zachary Copeland)

From four years of Parkside Stampeder football, one highlight stands out, winning a Western Ontario junior football title against one's of London's top high school programs.

"The 2017 WOSSAA victory over CCH was probably my best moment in high school football," said Copeland. "The guys we had on that team were unbelievable. That makes me happy all of the time when I think about that."

Copeland hasn't forgotten the Parkside coaches who helped him grow as a student and football player, from Jason Congdon and Kevin McIntyre to coaches Taylor, Norman and Adam Brisson.

"The amount of experience they have in university and professional football is really hard to come by," Copeland said. "Parkside is blessed to have that amount of knowledge and experience in one program. I know that really helped me along the way, getting advice and coaching from them. It's unbelievable the difference it makes in the transition going from high school to university."

Copeland and the Gees-Gees have visions of Vanier, but first it's their home opener against Waterloo.

"We like to do things one game at a time and we preach just doing your job," Copeland said. "We know what we need to do going into games. It comes down to being as simple as that. On every play you have a job to do. If all 12 guys on the field get their job done, step by step, that's how you build up to wins."

Local fans can see Copeland when Ottawa visits the Western Mustangs in London September 23.

Follow Copeland on Instagram - zachcopelandd





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