Last season’s performance places bullseye on backs of football Mounties

Wallie Sears
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It seems strange but perhaps that perception depends on what direction one is coming from. I guess you would only have to talk to people like Steve Bruno or Marc Loranger to discover that winning puts a huge bullseye on your back. Now Kelly Jeffrey realizes that has happened to his Mounties thanks to their sudden eruption as a team of championship caliber following nearly 15 years of languishing in the everglades.

The situation had become so bad that when officials were arranging interlock games with the Quebec conference, a matchup between the Mounties and Laval was postponed as long as possible as, naturally, the Quebec team wanted to ensure some strong competition for their 15,000 fans. It was only when Gary Ross was tearing up the scene that the Mounties made the trek. Quebec City newspapers played up the exploits of Ross so much fans attended primarily to see this phenom perform – and he did – even though the Mounties were hammered 77-7. Ross scored the lone Mountie touchdown. Atlantic conference teams refused to punt in the direction of Ross, but coach Constantine said he had no qualms about doing so – that is until Ross skipped to the sidelines for 50 yards. After that they, too, aimed their kicks out of bounds.

While Ross is long departed from the local scene, several others have taken up the torch. Local star Michael Bohan has earned plaudits across the country, especially after his major return set up a touchdown against Laval in the Uteck Bowl. Donovan Saunders carried the return load until an injury slowed him last season and Oromocto’s Josh Blanchard performed the task in fine fashion to spark the winning comeback against St. Mary’s in the Loney Bowl, leading the Atlantic Conference championship.

The 2014 schedule was recently released and shows the defending champion Mounties will be featured in the homecoming games of two opponents, while the  St. Mary’s Huskies will be in Sackville for their own homecoming on Sept. 20. As a matter of fact the Mounties, because of their 2013 performance, have drawn the Huskies on three occasions. Last season they took the measure of the Haligonians three times and look to make it four this year – three regular season wins plus one in the playoffs. Two of the three games will be in Sackville and the other in Halifax – with the location unnown due to the major renovations taking place at Huskie Stadium.

In their other games the Mounties will play home-and-away games with the St. FX X-Men and Acadia Axemen and will travel to Lennoxville for their interlocking game with Bishops Gaitors.

Despite the sudden emergency of the Mounties as championship contenders midway through last season there are a good many doubters – those who believe it was more by good luck than management that they came from 1-4 to finish 4-4 and then knock off both Acadia and Saint Mary’s to earn their berth in the Uteck Bowl – the semifinal match for the national championship. These critics point to the need for some late game comebacks, especially in the Loney Bowl when when they trailed by seven points with under four minutes remaining. They suggest the Mounties got all the breaks – not that they weren’t deserved after so many years of frustration. However, the “doubting Thomases” have taken a wait-and-see approach before proclaiming the Sackville squad is one of truly championship calibre.

Obviously, only time will tell. After going to the Vanier in 1984 the Mounties won the conference title the ensuing year and were edged out by UBC in the national semi-finals. Again in 1992, after having done well in the ’91 Vanier game, the Mounties fell in the conference finals but posted a winning record.

Pierre Arsenault, Mount A athletic director, who contributes immeasurably to the team’s success, takes a pragmatic approach. He says it will be difficult for his teams to have constant scoreboard success against schools with much greater enrolment and deeper pockets. His aim is to remain in contention in each game with the hope of coming up with a winning combination from time to time. He believes it his responsibility to equip each team with the best coaching possible and work with them in recruiting student-athletes who best fit the Mountie mold.

Really, who could ask for more?

Schedule

– Sept.  6 – Acadia at Mount Allison

– Sept. 13 – Mount Allison at St. FX

– Sept. 20 – St. Mary’s at Mount Allison

– Sept. 27 – Mount Allison at Bishop’s

– Oct. 4 – Mount Allison at St. Mary’s

– Oct.11 – St. Mary’s at Mount Allison

– Oct. 18 – Mount Allison at Acadia

– Oct. 25 – St. FX at Mount Allison

All games begin at 2 p.m. and the semi finals, pitting third place at number two, will be Nov. 1. The Loney Bowl will be held at the home of the pennant winner on Nov. 8. All teams will have Nov. 15 off with the AUS winner travelling to play the Ontario champion on Nov. 22 and the Vanier Cup game on Nov. 29 at a location to be announced.

Geographic location: Quebec City, Sackville, Acadia Halifax Huskie Stadium Lennoxville Saint Mary Ontario

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