The Mounties Michael Bohan (15) returns a punt as Dakota Brush (81) lays the block on Josh Sears (33). PHOTO SUBMITTED
The big question these days is how can a team pay near flawlessly at home and then go on the road and perform ineptly as have the Mounties done this season.
The perfect example of this took place here in Sackville on Saturday afternoon when the Mount Allison Mounties totally dominated the visiting St. Francis Xavier X-Men 42-13 on David MacAulay Field when, just a week earlier, they played poorly in an away game, losing 30-9 to the same team.
Some believe it may be the Mounties have the only natural grass field in the conference – the others enjoy all-weather turf – and only when the visit here do they get "down and dirty”.
Well, Jordan Botel has seen it all and he agrees that playing on their own natural grass field is an advantage but he also senses that the support of hometown fans is another major contributing factor. However, he feels that now that his team has found that it can win it should have a good chance in its final two games of the season. They travel to Halifax Friday to play the Huskies in a 7 o'clock fixture and then end out the regular schedule the following Saturday when they play host to pre-season favourites Acadia Axemen.
Currently, the Huskies lead the pace with a 4-2 mark, followed by St. F. X. at 3-3 and both the Mounties and Acadia at 2-4. So the hope of any post-season actions rests in their own hands – they will need to perform up to expectations in order to move on.
It is interesting to note that the two teams currently ahead of them have been defeated rather handily here on MacAulay Field.
The Mounties played supremely well in victory on Saturday, taking the X-Men out of the game early by putting 24 points on the board in the opening 15 minutes, snuffed out an X-Men threat in the third quarter and managed to get playing time for a number of bench players.
Long noted for their conservative game calling, the Mounties went to the air early and often, utilizing a vast variety of receivers. And led by the pile-driving Botel, they were rewarded with success. Meanwhile, the defensive unit put up a blanket on X-Men receivers to limit them to mostly minimal gains. One battle that was interesting to watch was that put on by cornerback Donovan Saunders and X-Men receiver Devon Bailey. The much taller Bailey, ranked number two in the upcoming CFL draft, was manhandled by Saunders, who denied him a couple of sure catches and actually took the ball away from him for a 28-yard interception to set up a Mountie major.
Quarterback Brendan Leyh was back on his game and utilized a greater variety of targets than before. Josh Blanchard emerged as the receiving star by hauling in eight passes for 130 yards and a big touchdown, while star rookie Rod Joseph had five receptions for 64 yards and a major. Stu Moore provided great outside blocking and ran some neat routes to account for first downs. The team went without outside receiver Troy Trentham who sustained a shoulder injury in practice but others stepped up to close ranks.
Kyle McLean, one of the top punters in the conference and a sure-handed receiver, turned field goal kicker on Saturday and showed a strong leg in the new position that has been filled by committee this year.
Leyh had his team in high gear early as he filled the air with balls and led the team on a 75-yard march, with Botel crashing through from the one after just a bit after three minutes.
Five minutes later McLean notched a 14 yard field goal and shortly after Botel earned his pay as he fought through the box from six yards out following a 53-yard drive. And then Blanchard, showing speed and route adeptness was wide open to receive a huge throw from Leyh and ran into the end zone for a 69-yard bomb to send the winners to the dressing room up 24-0.
With the X-Men showing more oomph to start the second half by scoring an early TD and again on the march the momentum was halted by the astute Saunders, who hoofed his interception down the sidelines to set up an eight-yard toss that Joseph outmuscled the coverage to convert. Then in the final 25 minutes Emmanuel Musongo ripped over from the six for a major before X wrapped up the day with an unconverted major by Roseway.
Following the game Michael Bohan, somewhat taken aback by being named the Canadian special teams player of the week, said it was nice but he much preferred winning games. He paid tribute to the fine defensive work by Saunders and feels the team is peaking and ready to muscle its way into a playoff position. Much in the same way, big Jacob Leblanc, a tiger in the defensive line, feels the boys are now ready after having shown they can play with the big boys.
Botel led the offense with a tough 131 yards along the ground as the team struck for a record total of 534 yards, including 292 through the air. St. F.X. managed 255 yards, including 195 through the air. The Mounties dominated at most statistical levels and were full value for their win.
The 42 points was the most by a Mountie team since 2008 when they had a 42-21 win over Acadia, and in 2007 they had 52 in a 55-52 loss to St. Mary's.
Defensively, the tackling was well dispersed with each player stepping up to do the job although a tight zone coverage limited the usually heavy passing X-Men in check. And Ashton Dickson was limited to just 43 yards on 15 attempts.
Those who did not take in the game missed a good one and the small crowed who showed up had a ball.