Top News

Sackville welcomes record number of student-athletes for Mounties pre-season training camp

Sackville native Dylan Cormier, left and Chris Reid get stretched out during Monday afternoon’s pre-season training camp workout.
Sackville native Dylan Cormier, left and Chris Reid get stretched out during Monday afternoon’s pre-season training camp workout.

SACKVILLE, N.B. – Gus MacFarlane would have thought he was in paradise. John Wheelock would have been smiling from dawn to dusk. Rob Kitchen would have refused to believe it could happen.

The “it” being talked about is the fact Scott Brady has welcomed just a couple shy of 100 to this year’s pre-season training camp – nearly 69 veterans and another 30 rookies.

Yes, it’s a fact – last week saw the largest number of student-athletes put in an appearance hoping to crack the roster of the Mount Allison Mounties.

It may be recalled that MacFarlane would open camp in the 1960s with 20 players while Wheelock might have had between 40 and 50. But then Kitchen hit a new low and after the first game of the 2001 season had just 31 young men still standing.

The numbers began to grow under Scott Fawcett and Steve Lalonde and hit new highs during the tenure of Kelly Jeffrey.

Mount Allison football Mounties head coach Scott Brady, right, runs some of his players through a drill Monday afternoon.

Obviously, there are many reasons for the new “riches”. A winning tradition over the past four seasons helps considerably to interest athletes in coming here. An intensive recruiting program headed by Brady and assistant Gaetan Richard, encouragement by the university’s administration and the unqualified support generated through the Fifth Quarter Club are also all contributors.

Of course finally having decent facilities to make the experience of playing with the Mounties more enjoyable is also important.

But the program has, in effect, reached the point where Brady can build it up. By bringing in solid student-athletes he is assured of having them remain for at least four years and often their full five of eligibility. It is no longer a case of frantically seeking out a rookie to fill a spot vacated by a talented veteran as the program recruits with the future in mind – looking for those young men who have the potential to develop – in other words, it’s a work in progress.

The coaches now enter the market seeking out the best available all-around athletes regardless of position – those who can evolve into strong positional players. In this regard, Michael Bohan would be the perfect example – a young man who seldom left the field while at Tantramar and then became an all-star as a defensive back with the Mounties during his five-year tenure.

The Mount Allison football Mounties have just a week to prepare for a jamboree in Antigonish this Saturday when they face Guelph and St. FX in 15-minute quarters as a warm up for their home opener here the following week with the Acadia Axemen.

It is true, though, that some rookies have an instant impact during their first year and Bohan would be included but one thinks immediately of players like Gary Ross, Kelly Hughes, Donovan Glave, Jakob Loucks, Chris Read and a host of others. But they have a hill to climb as they compete for positions against some who have paid their dues for a couple of seasons, doing yeoman-like work in practices and on special teams.

There will be opportunities this time and a quick peek at practices is sufficient to recognize some fine looking newcomers. Brady and his crew must do some rejigging of the lineup since a fair number of starters are no longer around. Starters such as Bohan, Darren Cossar, Jordan Redding, Kyle Horsman, Matt Zwicker and Dakota Brush are just a few of the faces who have moved on. But there are others more than willing to pick up any slack – for example Sackville’s own Dylan Cormier – so it will require some real commitment by a rookie to earn a starting jersey.

Most fans realize that a winning team must begin with building big, quick and tough linemen and there appears to be no limit this year for the Mounties. Battling for spots across the offensive line will be no fewer than 10 returnees and a half dozen rookies. Ross MacCormack headlines the list as a two-year starter, while Dylan Estabrooks and Isaac Humber, two more Titan grads, headline the rookie cast. The defensive line boasts no fewer than a dozen returnees and a trio of newcomers, while the defensive backfield will create some tough decisions for Brady as he has no fewer than 24 including 17 veterans.

There should be no shortage of targets for Loucks as the team is entertaining 13 vets and five newcomers, and there will be a dozen men vying for the linebacking spot, with Aaron Rose representing the home town. The tailback spot, with just six seeking the job, features two former all-conference stars in Chris Read and Kiel Ambursley, and a pair of top 100 Canadians in Adam Bennett and the top back in New Brunswick in Aidan O’Neal from the Titans.

Ryan Lambert is back and will have no serious competition for the position of kicker-punter, while Loucks should be a shoo-in for the quarterback spot, although three other returnees will be shooting to nail down the second string role.

One interesting change will see 6’7”, 250-pound former quarterback Graham Kelly run out of a slotback spot and this should make it tough for size-challenged defenders.  He will also have a group of seasoned mates to run routes, catch balls and sprint downfield.

Just shy of 100 potential players showed up to this year’s pre-season training camp, which kicked off on Friday.

From here it appears as though the Mounties should be a team to be reckoned with over the long haul.

Brady, as usual, remains tight-lipped entering the campaign, saying only that the top 12 players in practice will be the ones on the field in each game.

With practices starting last week, the team will have just a week to prepare for the jamboree in Antigonish this Saturday when Guelph, St. FX and the Mounties will play each other twice in 15-minute quarters as a warm up for our home opener here the following week with the Acadia Axemen.

Recent Stories