Published on August 21, 2013
Personal trainer Gaetan Richard provides Sackville resident Morris Mills with a rundown of how the gym equipment can best suit his needs during a session at the Mount Allison fitness centre in this file photo. In addition to his work at the university’s fitness centre, Richard is also a coach of the offensive line for the Mounties.
Published on August 21, 2013
All-Conference first-year-player Jordan Botel, show was an integral part of the football Mounties’ offense last season.
Gaetan (Gates) Richard is one of those people who can eat, sleep and dream football – and no doubt does.
For example, the biggest part of his life has been dominated by the game – four years of high school ball at Mathieu Martin High School in Dieppe, five years of playing anywhere in the offensive line for the Mount Allison Mounties and the past six as coach of the offensive line for the Mounties.
On top of this he has just come off his second season as head coach of New Brunswick's Under-18 team that took part in the Canadian championships in Moncton earlier this summer. As a matter of fact he recruited the remainder of the Mounties coaching staff, except head coach Kelly Jeffrey, to assist him and he said they did a "bangup" job of ensuring that the team improved day-to-day and game-to-game. This was demonstrated in the fact they lost by just 7-0 to Nova Scotia in the tournament after having been routed in two earlier meetings.
One of the main forces on that squad was offensive lineman Ross McCormack of the Tantramar Titans, whom Richard described as "a great kid with a positive attitude and a fine work ethic."
It seems only fitting that Richard and his fellow coaches from Sackville took on the provincial entry in an effort to help improve the level of talent throughout New Brunswick since the Mounties are the lone entry in the Atlantic Universities Football Conference from this province.
"It will be a long process before we in this province will be able to compete successfully against the powerhouse teams from across the country, but we have come a long way in the past two years to be able to go head-to-head with Nova Scotia."
Perhaps another positive in coaching the best young football players in the area is that it may give the Mounties the inside track when it comes time for them to move on to university.
Richard says he takes the same approach with the Mounties as he did with the under-18's with the goal of seeing gradual improvement from day one of the pre-season training camp.
There was no question last season that the Mounties suffered mainly in two areas – an inexperienced offensive line and a lack of speed and sure hands at the receiving position. As a result they were forced to rely almost entirely on a tough running game led by All-Conference first-year-player Jordan Botel. It is true the line was fairly adept at opening a hole or two but the problem came when they were asked to provide a stand and allow quarterback Brandon Leyh a few seconds to find an open receiver.
Because they were limited to a one-dimensional game, opposition coaches sent "the house" on almost every play, fully expecting a ground attempt and Leyh became adept at throwing the ball out of bounds and learned, as a rookie under fire, how to protect the ball as he often ended under a ton of attackers.
So, what are you going to offer this season to make life a little safer for the quarterback and allow the team to bring a better mix to the attack?
"We have all our starters back from last season," Richard says, "and have picked up two of the top linemen from New Brunswick and two others from Ontario. We will operate as a five-man unit rather than as individuals and I promise they will improve each day, beginning on August 23, our opening day of practice.
While he may live and sleep the game Richard is more than a little reluctant to discuss names of his players, preferring to refer to them as his "five-man unit."
As an indication of their youthfulness, Alex Healy will be the lone member entering his final season of eligibility. The 290-pounder from Mississauga is expected to be the ring-leader, but a healthy 300-pound Stephen Armstrong from Winnipeg should be a force. Paul Sibley, Jonathan Graves and Richard Smith, all in the 280-pound range as well as Zach Austin are the men Richard has to work with, so it is vital that one or two of the rookies will possess sufficient talent to take their place in the lineup.
The line coach says it is important for the Mounties to play to the strengths of the line, noting they have had leading rushers during the past three seasons. And head coach Kelly Jeffrey has promised a more diversified attack this season, relying again on Botel to be the workhorse along the ground and a couple of highly prized newcomers at receiver to change the complexion of the game.
But as usual it will remain a problem for the Mounties to break into the upper echelon of the Conference due to various factors, not the least being a definite lack of recruiting dollars and a limited number of course options on campus. However, in spite of this each year the team battles opponents yard for yard and nevere give up, often facing near impossible odds. And each year their fan base says, like those of the old Brooklyn Dodgers, Wait Til Next Year.