ANTIGONISH, NS - The STFX X-Men are Atlantic University Sports champions for the third season in a row with a 34-23 win over the Bishop's Gaiters in the 2023 AUS Loney Bowl on a rainy Saturday afternoon.
STFX running back Caleb Fogarty (Moncton, NB) earned player of the game honours, picking up 107 yards on 21 carries, including a touchdown. Speaking after the game, Fogarty gave a lot of credit for his and the team's success to the work put in by the offensive line. AUS all-star running back Malcolm Bussey (Hammonds Plains, NS) was sidelined for the championship game due to injury sustained in last week's semifinal.
Silas Fagnan (Bonnyville, AB) had a strong game under centre for the X-Men, going 11-17 for 206 yards in the air and two touchdowns, while Zachary Houde (Thetford Mines, QC) had 87 receiving yards with five catches including a touchdown, and Devaughn Blackwood (Kanata, ON) picked up 56 receiving yards on two catches, including a touchdown. STFX kicker Ben Hadley (Halifax, NS) went 3-for-3 both on field goals and extra point attempts for 12 points.
On defence for STFX, Brandyn Martin (Melfort, SK) and Josh Connors (Toronto, ON) each had 8.5 tackles and a tackle for a loss.
For Bishop's, quarterback Justin Quirion (Saint-Georges, QC) went 27-51 in the air, passing for 267 yards. Runningback O'Shae Ho-Sang (Lasalle, QC) picked up 48 yards on the ground with a touchdown, while Nykolas Pierre-Masse (Laval, QC) made six catches for 65 yards in the air. Kicker Xavier Gervais (Ottawa, ON) went 1-2 on filed goals and nailed both extra point kicks.
On defence for Bishop's, Alex MacDonald (Eastern Passage, NS) had 3.5 tackles, including three solos, while Brandon-James Poulin-Marques (Laval, QC) made 5.5 tackles including five solos, with each making three tackles for losses.
The X-Men put up points on their first three possessions, with Fagnan and Blackwood connecting on a 9-yard pass for a touchdown in the first six minutes, and Hadley drilling a 17-yard field goal attempt around three minutes later.
Bishop's cut the lead to seven points with a 35-yard field goal from Gervais, but the X-Men replied just over two minutes later with Fogarty running one in from seven yards out. Hadley hit both PATs, and the first quarter ended with STFX leading 17-3.
STFX continued to put points on the board in the second quarter, with Hadley splitting the uprights again from 45-yards out with three minutes gone. Bishops was able to sustain a four minute drive on their next possession, and Ho-Sang scampered in from 20 yards out for the first major of the afternoon for the visitors. Gervais was successful on the extra point attempt.
The teams traded punts the next time they touched the ball, and STFX began the drive on their own 20-yard-line. Success through the air and on the ground led to another Hadley field goal, this time from 26-yards out with 30 seconds left in the quarter, and the score remained 23-10 at halftime.
About 90 seconds into the second half, an 18-yard touchdown pass from Fagnan to Houde capped off an 85-yard drive for the X-Men to increase their lead. STFX defence got in on the scoring in the next drive, forcing a safety and picking up two points, and the quarter ended with the home team leading 32-10.
Bishop's started the fourth quarter on defence but a Yani Gouadfel (Mitry-Mory, FR) interception gave them the ball back. However, STFX's defence pushed back and forced another safety. Bishop's got on the board again about halfway though the final quarter, with Rene Zeevat (Merksplas, BE) running one in on a 22-yard fumble recovery, with Felix Massicotte (Ancienne-Lorette, QC) forcing the fumble.
Bishop's kept playing hard, and Mason McGriskin (Markham, ON) ran one in from two-yards out, but they weren't able to complete the two point conversion. The X-Men defence then forced a three-and-out on the next Bishop's drive, and that was the game.
As the AUS and Loney Bowl champs, STFX will now head out West to take on the winners of the Canada West Hardy Trophy, either UBC or Alberta, in the U SPORTS Mitchell Bowl national semifinal game next weekend.
Recap courtesy Matt Draper, STFX Athletics
Caleb Fogarty accepts the Don Loney trophy as the AUS Championship game MVP from AUS CEO Phil Currie