Yes, they were consistent if not spectacular in carving out a relatively easy 32-15 victory over the St. Francis Xavier X-Men. And yes, that is the team that humbled the Mounties 37-0 earlier this year.
But that is only part of the story – results of games in the Atlantic Universities Football Conference have been mind boggling as demonstrated in the Mounties 64-23 thrashing of Acadia only to be turned back 37-14 in their rematch.
The Mounties had their backs in the corner entering Saturday’s matchup. After losing a pair of one-point games in their last two outings and sitting in last place in the five team conference with a 1-4 record, another loss would have meant elimination of any playoff hopes. So perhaps for that reason alone they demonstrated competence under the guidance of backup quarterback Troy Downton, who put on the game of his life. He has taken over from starter Jakob Loucks, who has sustained what is expected to be a season-ending injury.
While Downton was more than just competent, he had a team around him that was eager to prove to their fans they have the potential to get things done. He completed 26 of 35 passing attempts for 255 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Two of these completions were to receiver Jared Rawlings, who earned player-of-the game honours.
Coming off an injury, Chris Reid never missed a beat as he led the awesome ground attack with 194 yards on 26 attempts and a touchdown. But it was Josh Hicks from just up the road in Moncton who demonstrated sticky fingers, with nine key catches for 109 yards of offense.
Thus the offense was in high gear. Following the game Downton was all smiles as he admitted this may have been his finest hour.
“My offensive line was giving me great protection and my receivers made the plays. And then Chris was always available to pick me up.”
Defensively, the team came together led by power tackle Donovan Glave, a tough linebacking corps and a secondary that threw up a blanket for most of the afternoon.
They recovered a fumble, sacked the quarterback four times and had an interception, limiting the X-Men to 279 yards while helping control the clock as the Mounties maintained the pigskin for 35 of the 60-minute struggle
And the special teams came into their own, providing Isadosa York with some seams as he returned punts for 54 yards and kicks for another 48 for another good day at the office.
The offense racked up a total of 542 yards, including 286 along the ground.
The hosts were up by six at the quarter and led 13-0 at the half and were never in danger. They held the visitors at bay for much of the game, permitting just two touchdowns, both coming later in the contest.
The victory leaves the Mounties with a 2-4 record with two games remaining – both on the road – at Bishop’s and St. Mary’s. While it is near impossible to imagine who will make it to the playoffs – the three top teams get to go – any combinations could occur. Currently, St. Mary’s stand at the top at 4-1 after having forfeited one victory by using an ineligible player. Acadia is at 3-2, St. F. X. is 3-3 and Bishop’s stands at 1-4. One thing is for certain, if the Mounties hope to see post regular season play they must show the same intensity and post two more Ws.
The Mounties entered the scoreboard midway through the first quarter when they completed a 58-yard drive with Rawlings shaking loose in the end zone. Then Rawlings found the end zone on a razzle-dazzle play as he found the end zone from three yards out following an interception on the X 22.
A Ryan Lambert field goal ran the count to 16 followed by a two-point safety.
Devante Sampson and Dylan Cormier were on the prowl. Cormier scored a sack, which sent X-Men quarterback Josh Pillar to the bench.
Overall, the hometown Mounties lived up to their pre-season billing and that in spite of a series of injuries to key personnel. This offers some hope to those who had partially given up hope for a team that had appeared in four consecutive Loney Bowls.
And even head coach Scott Brady had some positive words as he gave his charges two days off in order to celebrate and heal their wounds prior to preparing to meet Bishop’s in Quebec following a bye, which allows them nearly 10 days to get ready.