Huskies Set to Repeat (AUS Preview)

They do it differently in the East Coast of Canada but the one thing they do very well is play football. There are only four teams in the AUS Football league but they all have a history that other schools can’t match. Every one of the teams has made an appearance in the Vanier Cup and three of the four have one the big prize. None of these teams has a bigger history than the St. Mary’s Huskies who have made it to a total of nine Vanier Cups. They have a total record of 3-6 in the big game and are repeatedly a favorite to make it every year. They are challenged mainly by the Acadia Axemen and StFX X-Men who have been to their share of Vanier Cups, Axemen have a 2-2 record and X-Men have a 1-1 record. It is never a done deal in the AUS as both of these schools look to dethrone the Huskies every year. The one team that has not had the most success is the Mount Allison Mounties who have also been to two Vanier Cups but have never won. Last year this changed as the Mounties climbed up to be the #2 team in the AUS. Although they lost to Acadia in the semi-finals they made progress and are looking to have a better performance this year. Still it remains that Saint Mary’s is the team to beat as they are the defending champions of the AUS. This year we will see if the Huskies can remain on top or if Mount Allison can continue their climb meanwhile the X-Men and Axemen are still hanging around looking to make a run themselves.

Saint Mary’s Huskies

The Defending Champs in the AUS have been on top of the conference standings for years as the other team’s battle for second place. Last year the Huskies continued their dominance winning the Loney Bowl against the Acadia Axemen and moving into the Mitchell Bowl. That is where their dominance ended as they lost 35-8 to the Calgary Dinos. This year the Huskies will add 40 recruits to their stock of veteran players as they look to continue their success. The key on offence will be their running backs Craig Leger and Devon Jones who will lead the offence in their fifth years in a dynamic duo of running backs. The QB position will be the biggest battle as 2009 Loney Bowl MVP, Jack Creighton, will be one of 4 QBs competing for the job including freshman Jesse Mills. They will have enough weapons to work with as Jahmeek Taylor and Kevin Walsh will return as the main targets in the passing game. Defensively the linebacking corps will be depleted as three of their starters will be gone this season. Linebacker Kyle Norris will look to fill the gap as he will start for the first time in his 3rd year. The line will be their strength as the Huskies defensive leader, Dan Schutte, will return at defensive tackle along with defensive end Rob Jubenville. The Huskies will be making some changes but the program has been strong for so long that it would be hard to bet against them on winning the conference. They may face some challenges in the playoffs as the inexperience might show and they might not manage another Loney Bowl victory but they do have a chance.

Mount Allison Mounties

Mount Allison surprised a lot of people last year as The Mounties had their first winning season in a decade. They went beyond that as they also hosted their first playoff game in 12 years, losing a heartbreaker in OT to the Acadia Axemen. Although they did not accomplish exactly what they wanted the Mounties will still look to last season as proof that they are just getting better. This year the Mounties will be playing with a little more confidence as they return many of their veteran players. On offence the Mounties will return their All-Star QB in Jake Hotchkiss who led the AUS in almost all important QB statistics. Hotchkiss will have some weapons as leading receiver Adam Molnar returns and new receiving recruit Morgan McIsaac looks to make an impact. On defence the Mounties will return 7 starters from last year leaving some holes but with Ryan Downe, DE leading the pressure and looking for his Mount Allison record-breaking sack, he needs 1 more, they may be fine. The offence will return 10 players while the defence will return 7 but with AUS coach of the year Kelly Jeffrey at the helm the Mounties may be back to their winning tradition.  Look for them to repeat their success in the regular season but could also pull off a Loney Bowl appearance and victory as they get the opportunity to break a long drought.

Acadia Axemen

Acadia has struggled in the past few years as they continue a downward slide that has put them on the edge of the playoff picture. Last year they escaped the season with a good finish as they beat the Mount Allison Mounties in the semi-finals to advance to the Loney Bowl. They lost the championship to SMU in a dominant performance by a score of 37-8. This year Acadia will look to turn the program around and once again represent the AUS in the Vanier Cup playoffs. They will be in tough against a strong SMU team and an improved Mount Allison team that will challenge them for the top spots in the league. Last year the Axemen rode their defence to victory late in the season and with the departure of some key players their defence may suffer. They will look to replace the losses with a small but decent recruiting class that includes defensive tackle Jesse St. James who will look to replace AUS All-Star Adrian Saturley. The Axemen will also look to freshman Drew Morris, LB who will join Andrew Rowe, LB in the linebacking corps as they try to continue their defensive dominance. They may struggle on defence but the bright spot will be their offence as many players will return including their QB Kyle Graves who will have another year in the offence. If he can improve from last year the offence will get batter and hopefully pick up the slack from the defence. With another year under head coach Jeff Cummins Graves will look to solve his interception to touchdown ratio. The Axemen will be looking to stay afloat in a conference that is getting stronger but due to the inexperience of the StFX team will probably earn a playoff spot in 2011.

StFX X-Men

With such a small league only one team is eliminated from the playoffs every year and in 2010 it was the X-Men from Antigonish. The X-Men had high hopes last year as they were looking to compete with Saint Mary’s and Acadia for the top spot in the league. They did not meet these expectations as they only managed one win with a young team. This year they will look to get back into the playoffs as the young players on the team will have another year under their belt. They have a very big recruiting class, 40 players in total, including running back Ashton Dickson who transferred from The Cumberland Panthers. They will also rely on their young receiving corps that will be in their second year including Slotback Jordan Catterall and receiver Devon Bailey. If these young receivers can take their first year experience and become leaders on the offence the X-Men will improve their firepower and try to earn a playoff spot. On the defensive side the X-Men will welcome Ron Omara a 6’3” 245 lb linebacker coming off of a silver medal with Canada at the World Championships. Returning will be defensive leader Dylan Hollohan, DB who may also need to step up as he will be one of the more senior members of the X-Men this year. The X-Men will be looking to get back into the playoffs but may need some time to work on their young team. They may need to compete with Acadia for that last playoff spot and a chance to bring their youth the AUS playoffs.

 

Conference Prediction:

1. Saint Mary’s Huskies (5-3)

2. Mount Allison Mounties (5-3)

3. Acadia Axemen (2-6)

4. StFX X-Men (2-6)

 

AUS Quick Facts

Schools:

Acadia Axemen (Acadia University; Wolfville, Nova Scotia)

Mount Allison Mounties (Mount Allison University; Sackville, New Brunswick)

Saint Mary’s Huskies (Saint Mary’s University; Halifax, Nova Scotia)

StFX X-Men (St. Francis Xavier University; Antigonish, Nova Scotia)

 

Trophy:

Jewett Trophy

– Created in 1960 for the best team in the AUS

– Awarded to the winner of the Loney Bowl between the two best teams in the AUS

– Saint Mary’s Huskies have won 24 times (24-5 record in the Loney Bowl)

– 2011 winner will go on to play for the Uteck Bowl

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