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Mounties are playoff bound

The Mounties’ defense stood strong once again on Saturday, although the team fell 33-31 to the visiting Axemen. Above, Acadia running back Cole Estabrooks has no place to turn as several Mountie defenders converge on him.
The Mounties’ defense stood strong once again on Saturday, although the team fell 33-31 to the visiting Axemen. Above, Acadia running back Cole Estabrooks has no place to turn as several Mountie defenders converge on him. - Scott Doherty

Mount Allison to play semifinal game Saturday at Bishop's

SACKVILLE, N.B. —

A wind-blown 52-yard field goal attempt off the strong foot of James Parker drifted two feet wide of the left upright with no time remaining on the clock, ending a true barn burner here Saturday afternoon.

In a battle of the Atlantic Universities Football Conference titans, the visiting Acadia Axemen came out ahead by just two points – 33-31 – to complete a perfect 8-0 season and the right to enter directly into battle for the conference title.

Meanwhile, the Mount Allison Mounties will prepare for the conference semifinal match against the Bishop’s Gaiters in Quebec this Saturday.

The Mounties and St. Mary’s Huskies had been deadlocked in third place, but the X-Men defeated the Huskies 14-4 on Saturday, thus eliminating them from further competition. Should the Mounties have defeated Acadia they would have hosted the Gaiters this Saturday but that opportunity slipped away when their last-minute desperation move fell just short.

Saturday’s game was played much as expected. Both teams are noted for defense and it was obvious, especially as the Mountie defenders not only slowed the most explosive offense in the conference, but actually scored 14 points on interceptions.

The visitors carved out a 10-6 lead during the first quarter, but the Mounties came alive during the second 15-minute session by putting 18 points on the board, while holding Acadia to seven. It was in the third quarter that the visitors dominated by adding nine, while holding the Mounties off the score sheet. A 27-yard field goal closing out the third quarter turned out to be the winning margin.

Josh Hicks, a brilliant receiver from Moncton, scored a touchdown in the fourth to bring the score to within two and in the final seconds snared two more passes to bring his team to what they thought was within field-goal range.

Parker, a sophomore from Alberta, carefully lined up the shot and had the range but the wind carried the ball just to the left.

Hicks, a fifth-year receiver, enjoyed a breakout game as he set new AUS records with 16 receptions for 296 yards. He simply ran perfect patterns and added huge gains after the catch. He was Patry’s favourite target as he passed for 376 yards, completing 24 of 36 attempts.

The Mountie brain trust opted for the air as the Axemen, with a punishing defensive line and strong linebacking corps, contained the ground game. The locals managed 105 yards along the ground.

As the final score would indicate, the teams were close on the stat sheets. The hosts had more first downs (26-24) and more offensive yards (481-416), while it was extremely close otherwise, with the two sharing the clock.

Much of the Mountie scoring came from a pair of defensive backs. First it was Matt Watson with 90-yard interception return and this was followed in short order by Graeme Stevens with 44-yard TD interception.

The entire defensive corps turned in strong efforts, from the front four to safety Lucas Cormier, but the Axemen showed greater versatility on attack – the key factor as it turned out.

Being in the playoffs for the first time in three years after having enjoyed a couple of championship years is a tribute to a team that lost its opening series of games but who came back to earn the playoff slot.

Saturday’s game could well have proven to be the introduction to the conference final. The Mounties easily handled Bishop’s here two weeks ago but lost by a couple in Quebec earlier in the season. Should they be successful this Saturday, they will have a dance date with the Axemen in Wolfville the following week in the 2019 Loney Bowl.

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