Michael Bohan, shown running the ball in Saturday’s game in Antigonish against the X-Men, is quickly becoming one of the team’s top players. PHOTO SUBMITTED
Michael Bohan is fast becoming the face of the Mount Allison Mounties in just his second season with the team in somewhat the same role he played for the Tantramar Titans.
With the local high school squad Michael was quarterback, safety, punter, kicker, and punt- and kick-returner, barely getting off the field for a rest. He is growing into a similar role with the Mounties as he plays defensive half and has turned into an unusually successful returner. It remains to be seen if he will ultimately take on the kicking duties and may even be forced to move in behind the centre to receive the snaps.
On Saturday afternoon in Antigonish the talented young man from Sackville scored his team's lone touchdown with a tremendous 78-yard run, returning a punt, posted 5.5 tackles, had a couple of breakups and laid one lick after another on opposing ball carriers. And with the Mounties showing an inability to score points, it may remain only a brief time before he is asked to step into even more positions in an effort to help straighten out a sinking ship.
Actually, the final score on Saturday read 30-9 for the hometown St. Francis Xavier X-Men as they ran roughshod over a seemingly disorganized Mountie squad, bringing roars of delight from their homecoming weekend crowd that included players from as far back as the ’50s.
Déjà vu indeed. The first time these two teams met back on Sept. 7, the score read 31-10 for the X-Men so little has changed.
Just to add a note to the oddity of the situation, it was 38 years ago almost to the day that Michael's father, Mark, scored the only Mountie touchdown of the game against the same X-Men in a battle in Sackville. In that matchup the older Bohan pounced on a loose ball in the X-Men end zone to prevent a total whitewash. Since then Mark has served as head coach of the Titans for many years and has guided the lady basketball Titans for two decades.
So what now for the Mounties? They find themselves trailing the other three teams with one win in four attempts, that a decisive but surprising victory over the pace-setting St. Mary's Huskies, who are now 3-2 along with the X-Men, while the pre-season favourites, the Acadia Axemen, stand at 2-3. In order for Kelly Jeffrey's squad to make a playoff spot they must not only win their remaining three games but hope that there is a split among the others so they might sneak home for another post-season test.
Even though the defense has been allowing a fair number of points to be scored against them, showing a weakness in their schemes against the pass, it has been an almost total inability by the offense to generate anything resembling that of a competitive team. And on Saturday even quarterback Brandon Leyh showed an unusual weakness as he not only threw four interceptions but was off the mark, usually throwing well over the heads of his intended receivers. The young man from B.C. has had much better days since coming here a year ago and so backup signal caller Alex Field played the entire second half. While Field was unable to generate any significant momentum – he completed six of 11 pass attempts for 41 yards – he stayed away from any interceptions.
With Rod Joseph missing due to a concussion sustained a week earlier, the aerial game was considerably shortened, as he has immediately become the prime target. This meant that all-star running back Jordan Botel was called on more and more and he responded by posting 121 yards in 19 tries, but most of these were made through heavy traffic, usually dragging two or three defenders along. Nathan Zavarella was the primary target as he caught six balls for 31 yards and Dakota Brush had four for 35. Troy Trentham picked up 35 yards on crossing routes and had one reception for a dozen yards.
On the day the Mounties managed 294 yards of offense but gave back 157 yards in penalty calls. The biggest positive for them was Bohan's 288 yards gained on returns, including 210 and a touchdown off punt returns.
The X-Men dominated the statistical sheet, starting with a 30-9 edge in first downs and controlling the clock for nearly 40 of the 60 minutes. Thanks to Botel the Mounties did lead in rushing (211-111) but there was no similarity in the passing games where a couple of X quarterbacks completed 31 of 42 attempts for 317 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions. The Mounties tried 25 times through the air, completed 12 with four going into the wrong hands.
In addition to the four interceptions the Mounties turned the ball over twice on failed third down conversions and kept the defense constantly on their heels due to poor field placement. But Kyle McLean continued his fine punting with a 36 yard average seven attempts.
It took less than three minutes for the winners to get on the scoreboard. Devon Bailey, a 6'7" receiver, leaped high to pull in a ball in the end zone, setting the battle that was to be waged all afternoon with Donovan Saunders, a much shorter but equally as talented corner. Saunders, a conference all-star, put a few hits on Bailey and held the player ranked number two in the upcoming CFL draft, to 98 yards, even though playing on an injured leg. The score was doubled at the seven-minute mark when the winners went over from the two on a third down try. But Bohan brought gasps from the crowd as he danced down the sidelines for 78 yards for the prettiest touchdown of the day – but that was all she wrote. From then on it was all X as they built a 21-7 bulge by intermission, added a field goal in the third and two more three pointers in the final 15 minutes.
What next? Well, it wont be long to wait for a rematch. This Saturday at 2 p.m. at MacAulay Field it will see the Mounties attempting to utilize home field advantage to scramble back into the race. With, hopefully, the return of Joseph and Nick Lauder and a damp grass field, the Mounties may find their magic agains as they did with the Huskies three weeks ago and start the turnaround they have been seeking. Otherwise it will be lights out for another campaign and the boys will simply be meeting their commitments by playing out the final two games.