Football Mounties show signs they’re coming of age

Wallie Sears
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Football Mountie quarterback Brandon Leyh helped lead his team to a major comeback in the 2013 season.

There are a good many indications – well beyond the dramatic and sudden turnaround of fortunes midway through the 2013 season in the Atlantic Universities Football Conference (AUFC) – that the football Mounties have come of age.

Most recently was the announcement that a quarter of the starting lineup for the East in the annual East-West Bowl will be comprised of a trio of defenders. Former All-Canadian defensive lineman Jacob LeBlanc, safety All Canadian Kwame Adjei and multi-All-Conference corner Donovan Saunders will attempt to lead the team representing the AUFC and the Quebec conference to a victory after having dropped the last five meetings. The team will be coached by Laval mentor Glen Constantine, while Blake Nill, head coach of Calgary Dinosaurs will handle the West.  Nill will be remembered as the highly successful coach of St. Mary’s Huskies and the man who took a “strip” off the Mount Allison administration for a lack of support after his team administered an unholy thrashing to the young Sackville collegians.

The match will be held on May 10 in London, Ont., on the campus of University of Western Ontario. The West leads the series, which began in 2003, seven games to four, having a five game streak on the line.

Adjei, a native of Brampton, earned first team All-Canadian honours last season for his inspired play at the position, while Saunders, who hails from Brampton, provided the Mounties with shut-down play at one corner. LeBlanc, a 315-pound bulldozer from Halifax, is considered one of the most outstanding people to have played the tackle position for the Mounties and has become a perennial All-Conference selection as well as an All-Canadian.

Meanwhile, as an exclamation mark, another trio were invited to CFL Combine camps. Jordan Botel, the Conference MVP as well as another All-Canadian, performed well in his “screen test” for the CFL scouts in Toronto.  Meanwhile, Quinn Everett and Troy Trentham attended a regional camp in Montreal. Unfortunately Trentham was injured just prior to the camp and was unable to perform many of the tests. Both enjoyed brilliant campaigns, especially during the run to the Uteck Bowl, with Trentham being chosen to the All Conference team as an inside receiver.

And a number of national websites have placed the Mounties in number eighth spot among all Canadian universities in recruiting for the 2014 season. Last year they reaped a harvest of rookies and this time the number is approaching 30, with a number of blue chippers according to some on the inside.

Recently, during a football team awards presentation, there were few surprises.  Jordan Botel, the tireless tailback who carried the ball nearly 200 times during the season without a single fumble easily was named the team MVP but both quarterback Brendan Leyh and defensive lineman Jacob LeBlanc received considerable thought. Botel and Leyh are both from B.C. and added immensely to an offense that was in need two seasons ago while Haligonian LeBlanc provided the push son the defensive line.

Rookie of the year honours went to the brilliant Devante Sampson who closed down one corner, had nearly 40 tackles and a couple of interceptions. Under ideal conditions he could have been the conference rookie but that went to a member of the Huskies. The Mississauga native easily edged out Andre Goguien of Moncton, the centre, and Dayhtona Brush, an underrated receiver from Brantford.

Leyh, the brilliant second-year quarterback, was picked as the team’s offensive MVP, edging out Botel and receiver Troy Trentham, both of who had outstanding years. Meanwhile, Kwame Adjeiof Brampton was chosen as the defensive MVP over middle linebacker Te Nguyen of Oakville and Jake LeBlanc of Halifax.

Sackville’s Michael Bohan, another conference All-Conference, was named top special teams player, especially for his emergence as a punt return specialist. In the running were Kyle Horseman of Moncton and Kyle McLean of Nepean. Jacob LeBlanc was the top lineman on the team with others in contention being Jon Graves of Halifax and Andre Goguen of Moncton.

Te Nguyen of Oakville received the coaches’ award for his leadership with Graves and Trentham high on the list. Graves took home the Mountie PRIDE award with receiver Stu Moore receiving strong attention. Troy Trentham, because of his breakout season, was named the most improved player on the team, while a pair of Halifax natives, defensive back Darren Cossar and defensive end Christian Plante, were in the mix. AJ Singh, an outside linebacker, took home the John McNeil Award for his commitment to academics and for his dedication to the team.

Each year the Mountie coaches select two developmental awards. These go to players who seldom dress for games but who contribute a great deal in the preparation of games by taking on the roles of specific opposing players. They usually find themselves in the lineup over the next year or two after proving their versatility. Mike Bettle of Hampton was the winner of the defensive award while Mitch MacAuley of Newmarket and Joshua Campbell of Fredericton were considered. And on the offensive side of the ball it was Quinn LeBlanc of Calgary taking the top spot, followed by Adam Spurrell of Quispamsis and Matt Zwicker of Halifax.

An award was established some years ago to honour the late David Jardine, long-time equipment manager, which is presented annually to an individual considered to have made a major contribution to the success of the football program.  This year’s recipient was Brendon Dubbs, a former player, current student and volunteer coach of the receiving corps.

With the entire defensive unit slated to return en masse to training camp in August, and with a rush of fresh faces ready to challenge, it appears as though defensive coordinator Scott Brady will be forced to make some decisions. But he says the best 12 players will be on the field regardless.

Mountie fans everywhere are already getting “antsy” and finding it difficult to wait for the whistle to blow to mark the launch of the new season.

Organizations: University of Western Ontario.The West

Geographic location: Trentham, East-West Bowl, Quebec London, Ont. Moncton Brampton Toronto Oakville Troy Newmarket Fredericton Calgary

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  • Linda Dugas
    April 23, 2014 - 22:45

    So pleased and very proud that my Grandson, Donovan Saunders, will be playing in the East/West game in May in London, Ontario. Happy that he will be home in Ontario for the summer once again. Family and friends will be at the game cheering you on. Good luck.