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Football Mounties seeking another successful season

The Football Mounties’ star quarterback, Brandon Leyh, could see some added protection thanks to one or two of the team’s huge new linemen.
The Football Mounties’ star quarterback, Brandon Leyh, could see some added protection thanks to one or two of the team’s huge new linemen.

SACKVILLE, N.B. – For the first time in the 61-year history of Mount Allison Mountie football there will be 100 prospects trying out for the team. And they will all report in playing condition for the first meeting exactly one week from today – on Aug. 26 – for two on-field and three-class sessions daily leading up to the pre-season exhibition game on Sept. 6 against the St. Francis Xavier X-Men in Antigonish.

The record number expected comes as little surprise following two appearances in the national semi-final and twice on national television. Being the lone undefeated team last season also has played a role in encouraging top student-athletes to find their way to Sackville in hopes of bagging a spot on the roster.

“What this team has accomplished over the past two seasons,” says Mountie athletic director Pierre Arsenault, “is the result of hard work and careful planning and having 100 players in camp makes good sense for the long term.”

The Mounties should find themselves in a good position after posting an 8-0 conference record last season and a 10-1 mark overall. Actually,

 they have won 15 consecutive conference or exhibition games and will be seeking to extend that streak – also the longest in their history.

“The team goes into this season with a good sense of identity,” says Arsenault.  “They have a winning tradition and are aiming to make it permanent by finding the top prospects in the country and bringing them into the program.”

Speaking in the absence of head coach Kelly Jeffrey, defensive coordinator Scott Brady says that while the entire starting defensive unit could be back it will be only the best 12 coming out of the camp who will earn the right.

While this is no doubt true, can you imagine players like defensive tackle Jacob LeBlanc, safety Kwame Adjei, linebacker Te Nguyen or backs Michael Bohan and Donovan Saunders being passed over?

These perennial all-stars will be counted on to “bear the load” as the team goes for a three-peat.  All have been named conference all-stars, while LeBlanc and Adjei can claim All-Canadian honours.

But there are some very talented rookies due to report in. The majority will hail from Ontario, but others are coming from the Maritimes and Western provinces as well as from the US. The recruiters have looked to the future and sought out several quarterback prospects as well as receivers, big linemen, a running back or two and defensive backs.

It will require some reshaping of the offense since some primary receivers have graduated, while another has exceeded the age limit to join two graduating linemen. Thus Jeffrey and offensive coordinator Gaetan Richard will be faced with putting the pieces together before the season opener. The loss of receivers Josh Blanchard, Troy Trentham and Rodreke Joseph has put a major dent in the attack, while the loss of veteran Quinn Everett and Jon Graves off the line will be felt.

However, Jeffrey has maintained that there are those in the background – some perhaps red shirted – who will be ready. And he is confident one or two of the huge new linemen will be up to the task of helping to provide some protection for the league’s top quarterback – Brendon Leyh.

Former Titan and veteran receiver Matt Rose is expected to play an ever-greater role, while junior Dakota Brush could prove to be the dark horse. And there is always the team workhorse – Chris (The Flash) Reid.  Reid led the conference in rushing with nearly 1,000 yards last season and could find himself with a strong running mate this time. The 5’6”, 185 pounder with a 40-inch elevation will put plenty of pressure on opposing defenses.

Brady, a cautious sort, quickly points out when asked to comment that the other three teams in the conference are all returning a large number of veterans and there should be plenty of balance throughout the upcoming campaign.

There is no question the Mounties will have a target on their backs after having risen from the ashes to claim back-to-back Atlantic championships and it will not be a piece of cake to repeat.

This year’s 45-man recruiting class compares with the record 50 set by coach Scott Fawcett a dozen years ago. It’s also hoped it will compare quality-wise to the 2011 class that has been mainly responsible for the successful turnaround. In addition to the 45 rookies, there will be another 55 players coming back for another season.

The coaching staff is all set with most of the key pieces returning. Jeffrey, in addition to serving as head coach, will mentor the quarterback, while Brady as defensive coordinator will deal with the safeties. Gaetan Richard will serve as offensive coordinator and coach the receivers, and Brandon Dubs will coach defensive backs and special teams. Pete Miller will again coach the defensive line, and Terry Tait will have the offensive line. Gord Francis will return as running back coach, while newcomers Cory Gott and Nic Pockhurst will be assigned linebackers and receivers respectively. Chris Hopkins, Bradley Day and Sean Hickey will also assist in creating another champion.

The Mounties will travel to Halifax on Sept. 11 to meet the Huskies in the first league game and will be home to Acadia for their home opener on the new field. Their interlock game will be at home on Sept. 26 with Sherbrooke in town.

The record number expected comes as little surprise following two appearances in the national semi-final and twice on national television. Being the lone undefeated team last season also has played a role in encouraging top student-athletes to find their way to Sackville in hopes of bagging a spot on the roster.

“What this team has accomplished over the past two seasons,” says Mountie athletic director Pierre Arsenault, “is the result of hard work and careful planning and having 100 players in camp makes good sense for the long term.”

The Mounties should find themselves in a good position after posting an 8-0 conference record last season and a 10-1 mark overall. Actually,

 they have won 15 consecutive conference or exhibition games and will be seeking to extend that streak – also the longest in their history.

“The team goes into this season with a good sense of identity,” says Arsenault.  “They have a winning tradition and are aiming to make it permanent by finding the top prospects in the country and bringing them into the program.”

Speaking in the absence of head coach Kelly Jeffrey, defensive coordinator Scott Brady says that while the entire starting defensive unit could be back it will be only the best 12 coming out of the camp who will earn the right.

While this is no doubt true, can you imagine players like defensive tackle Jacob LeBlanc, safety Kwame Adjei, linebacker Te Nguyen or backs Michael Bohan and Donovan Saunders being passed over?

These perennial all-stars will be counted on to “bear the load” as the team goes for a three-peat.  All have been named conference all-stars, while LeBlanc and Adjei can claim All-Canadian honours.

But there are some very talented rookies due to report in. The majority will hail from Ontario, but others are coming from the Maritimes and Western provinces as well as from the US. The recruiters have looked to the future and sought out several quarterback prospects as well as receivers, big linemen, a running back or two and defensive backs.

It will require some reshaping of the offense since some primary receivers have graduated, while another has exceeded the age limit to join two graduating linemen. Thus Jeffrey and offensive coordinator Gaetan Richard will be faced with putting the pieces together before the season opener. The loss of receivers Josh Blanchard, Troy Trentham and Rodreke Joseph has put a major dent in the attack, while the loss of veteran Quinn Everett and Jon Graves off the line will be felt.

However, Jeffrey has maintained that there are those in the background – some perhaps red shirted – who will be ready. And he is confident one or two of the huge new linemen will be up to the task of helping to provide some protection for the league’s top quarterback – Brendon Leyh.

Former Titan and veteran receiver Matt Rose is expected to play an ever-greater role, while junior Dakota Brush could prove to be the dark horse. And there is always the team workhorse – Chris (The Flash) Reid.  Reid led the conference in rushing with nearly 1,000 yards last season and could find himself with a strong running mate this time. The 5’6”, 185 pounder with a 40-inch elevation will put plenty of pressure on opposing defenses.

Brady, a cautious sort, quickly points out when asked to comment that the other three teams in the conference are all returning a large number of veterans and there should be plenty of balance throughout the upcoming campaign.

There is no question the Mounties will have a target on their backs after having risen from the ashes to claim back-to-back Atlantic championships and it will not be a piece of cake to repeat.

This year’s 45-man recruiting class compares with the record 50 set by coach Scott Fawcett a dozen years ago. It’s also hoped it will compare quality-wise to the 2011 class that has been mainly responsible for the successful turnaround. In addition to the 45 rookies, there will be another 55 players coming back for another season.

The coaching staff is all set with most of the key pieces returning. Jeffrey, in addition to serving as head coach, will mentor the quarterback, while Brady as defensive coordinator will deal with the safeties. Gaetan Richard will serve as offensive coordinator and coach the receivers, and Brandon Dubs will coach defensive backs and special teams. Pete Miller will again coach the defensive line, and Terry Tait will have the offensive line. Gord Francis will return as running back coach, while newcomers Cory Gott and Nic Pockhurst will be assigned linebackers and receivers respectively. Chris Hopkins, Bradley Day and Sean Hickey will also assist in creating another champion.

The Mounties will travel to Halifax on Sept. 11 to meet the Huskies in the first league game and will be home to Acadia for their home opener on the new field. Their interlock game will be at home on Sept. 26 with Sherbrooke in town.

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