X-Men earn first win of AUS season with 22-8 decision over Gaiters

X-Men earn first win of AUS season with 22-8 decision over Gaiters

ANTIGONISH, NS - The STFX X-Men opened the 2023 AUS regular season with a 22-8 win over the visiting Bishop's Gaiters on a rainy Saturday afternoon.

X-Men head coach Gary Waterman knew they would be facing a tough opponent this afternoon, noting "Bishop's brought it to us and we were sputtering at times on offense trying to figure out how we wanted to attack them, and credit to their defense they played extremely well."

"Our defense was a little shaky in the first half but really turned around in the second half and played more consistently. I thought our special teams were good all game."

For the X-Men, quarterback Silas Fagnan (Bonnyville, AB) went 13-30 with 149 yards and two touchdowns through the air, while Malcolm Bussey (Hammonds Plains, NS) managed 18 carries for 115 yards on the ground.

Replying for the Gaiters, quarterback Justin Quirion (Saint-Georges, QC) went 23-39 and 273 yard in the air and one touchdown.

The Gaiters got the ball first and made steady progress downfield until Jay Turnsek (North Bay, ON) forced a fumble that Nathan Cayouette (Strathmore, AB) recovered. The teams then traded punts for the next few series. The Gaiters put the first point on the board with about 10 seconds left in the first quarter, making a tackle in the X-Men endzone after a big punt from Yani Gouadfel (Mitry-Mory, FR).

Bussey had a 39-yard run at around the 11 minute mark of the second quarter to give the home team good field position, leading to a pass and catch between Fagnan and Zakariya Karim (Ottawa, ON) for the first major of the game, with Ben Hadley (Halifax, NS) hitting the extra point. Bishop's conceded a safety a few minutes later, bringing the score to 9-1.

Despite some penalties, Quirion marched the Gaiters downfield with some big passes soon after, hitting Oliver Burnett (Fredericton, NB) in the endzone to cap off the drive, with Xavier Gervais (Ottawa, ON) nailing the extra point.

With less than a minute left in the half, Fagnan fired a 43-yard bomb to Ben Harrington , (Dartmouth, NS) for the touchdown with Hadley hitting the extra point and kicking a rouge on the ensuing kickoff.

The teams headed to the locker rooms with the X-Men leading 17-8.

Bishops conceded a safety within the first four minutes of the third quarter, which stood as the only points of the stanza until Hadley drilled 35-yard field goal with 30 seconds left.

Veteran defensive lineman Alex Fedchun (Calgary, AB) had 2.5 sacks in the game as he lead the X defense with eight tackles in the game. The sacks broke the all-time STFX career sack record of 18, bringing him to 19.5 on his career.

The Gaiters made a sustained drive around the 10-minute mark of the fourth quarter, but another Fedchun sack along with Dyton Blackett (Canning, NS) and a forced fumble led to a Zeck Willems (Tiny, ON) recovery.

The teams traded possessions until about the last minute, when the Gaiters had a solid drive that lead them into the STFX red zone, but a STFX sack snuffed out the danger and the game wrapped up 22-8 for the home team.

Reflecting back on what the X-Men need to work on heading into the second week of AUS competition, Coach Waterman commented, "We have to protect the football better, finish drives when you get a chance and we gotta get off the field when we have a chance to get off the field. We know we're going to get the best out of every team we play and we'll continue to get better as a team."

STFX will head to Wolfville, NS to take on the Acadia Axemen on Saturday, September 2nd. The Gaiters will host the SMU Huskies. Kick-off for both games is 3:00 pm local time.


Courtesy Matt Draper, STFX Athletics