SACKVILLE, N.B. – With just two victories in their first five attempts the Mount Alison Mounties face some tough challenges during the final three games to earn a playoff spot and a chance to return to glory.
At 2-3 the local squad is knotted with the St. FX X-Men in fourth spot with only winless Bishop’s trailing the pack. The Saint Mary’s Huskies have raced to a 6-0 mark while Acadia follows at 4-2.
It has been a tough season so far for the rookie-laden Mounties who faced a variety of setbacks during the off season, including the resignation of head coach Scott Brady and the defection of three key performers on whom a good deal had been counted.
The greatest acquisition has been kicker James Parker who has proven invaluable.
But the special teams work has left much to be desired. The punting has proven to be a sore point – the poorest in the conference at 28.4 yards a kick, while there has been little room for the returners to find room. This may be due to too many inexperienced personnel with skills to open seams for Iddy York or Kiel Ambursley.
During a recent discussion, offensive coordinator Gaétan Richard said he expects to see a juggling of people on this key unit in order to gain some yardage. The Mounties have found themselves to be at a major field position disadvantage time after time due to the lack of progress of the special unit.
Offensively there have been some highlights and disappointments. Chris Reid has missed much of the season with an ongoing hamstring injury, but Ambursley has picked up the tempo, averaging well over 100 yards a game, amassed 356 yards from the line of scrimmage and notched 576 total yards. With three members among the top eight in the conference in rushing they have been doing well along the ground.
Malik Richards has returned better than ever after earning an all-conference spot last year. He has caught 33 passes for 361 yards and has another 175 mostly on sweeps.
Quarterback Troy Downton has proven to be a true soldier as he stands in facing an assault in order to find receivers. While his offensive line has shown potential, there have been leaks and Downton has paid the price while looking at the sky. He has managed to complete 99 of 144 attempts for 1,079 yards. Meanwhile, he has managed five touchdowns while being picked off once.
So what are the Mounties facing? First they are off to Halifax to try to knock off the undefeated Huskies to whom they lost 25-13 at home. Like their three losses they led late in the game only to give up a pair of touchdowns. They must be able to score early and to stay tough in the final quarter and the defense has done a fair job. Led by Nate Rostek, Michael Dominico and Skyler LeBlanc in the secondary, Damian Halstead and Dylan Cormier at linebacker and tackle Marshall Esokpunwu, the defense has come up tough and have shown they can contain the run.
But they are in for a battle as they attempt to corral Huskie quarterback Kalen Scott, who leads in nearly every category and was responsible for their defeat at home.
Richard says the team is looking at winning at least two of their final three games. After this weekend, they travel to Acadia and host St. F. X./ in their final regular season game on Oct 20. As it looks now this final match could be the one that decides their playoff fate.
This final home game will also be a fund raiser for Craig’s Cause Pancreatic Cancer Society. The coach says players will be out going door to door selling tickets for the 50/50 draw on Oct. 15, while tickets will also be available at the game.