Antigonish, NS – The STFX X-Men are 2021 AUS football champions following a 25-17 victory over the Bishop's Gaiters in the Subway Loney Bowl championship game Saturday afternoon at STFX Stadium.
A pair of second half touchdowns by AUS rookie of the year Malcolm Bussey (Hammonds Plains, NS) help lift the X-Men to their 15th overall conference title in team history in the 48th edition of the AUS Loney Bowl conference championship game.
Bussey scored on a two yard rush late in the third quarter to give the X-Men back the lead in the game and added another rushing score from 10 yards out in the fourth.
With the win the X-Men advance to the U SPORTS Mitchell Bowl national semifinal in London, Ont. next Saturday where they will face the Western Mustangs.
All the scoring in the opening half of the AUS Loney Bowl came off the foot of X-Men AUS all-star kicker Max Capriotti (Mount Hope, ON) as he booted three field goals.
His first came from 36 yards out at 5:49 of the first quarter.
After a missed 39-yard field goal attempt on the final play of the opening quarter, the X-Men held an early 3-0 lead.
Capriotti kicked from 37 and 22 yards out in the second quarter as the X-Men held a 9-0 lead at halftime.
X-Men defensive back Brandyn Martin (Melfort, SK) had a fumble recovery on a Gaiters hand-off miscue which X capitalized on for Capriotti's third field goal.
The Gaiters had their own turnover recovery with under two minutes to play in the opening half as Yani Gouadfel (Mitry-Mory, France) intercepted a Silas Fagnan (Bonnyville, AB) pass.
The Gaiters moved the ball deep into X-Men territory but their gamble on third and eight play with under a minute to go didn't pay off as the X-Men defense stopped their advance.
Both teams were held to low rushing yards in the first half with 47 by STFX and 49 by BU. AUS all-star rushers Bussey and his Gaiters counterpart Louis-Philippe Gregoire (Jinquière, QC) were 13-29 and 7-35, respectively.
STFX had 169 yards in the air to Bishop's 62.
The Gaiters came out a new team in the third quarter, scoring their first points of the day at 6:52 on a nine-yard rush by quarterback Maxime Bouffard (Sherbrooke, QC).
The score came a few plays after a nifty reverse hand-off on a Gaiters fake punt that saw Gouadfel complete a 17-yard pass to Gabriel Royer (Lawrenceville, QC) on third down.
The Gaiters pulled even at 9-9 two minutes later as the X-Men conceded a safety.
A rouge with 3:47 left in the third quarter gave the Gaiters their first lead of the game, 10-9.
Cue the X-Men comeback led by AUS most valuable player Silas Fagnan and AUS leading rusher Malcolm Bussey.
With 31 seconds left in the quarter, the X-Men regained their advantage on the scoreboard as Bussey scored on a two yard touchdown rush. The play came after Silas Fagnan made consecutive receptions to Isaac Fagnan (Bonnyville, AB) and Benoit Cormier (Moncton, NB) for 25 and 24 yards, respectively.
Capriotti's fourth field goal from 33 yards then gave the X-Men an 18-10 lead at 12:25 of the fourth quarter.
Bussey punched in his second touchdown at 8:11 to put the X-Men up 25-10 on his second major of the afternoon.
He finished with 22 carries for 66 yards.
The Gaiters scored on a one yard rush from Bouffard with 39 seconds left in the game to round out the scoring in the 25-17 X-Men win.
Silas Fagnan was named Subway player of the game and playoff MVP as he was 22 for 36 with 304 passing yards. He used a variety of receivers including Isaac Fagnan (7-102), Benoit Cormier (9-89) and Zakariya Karim (3-80).
He noted after the game, "This feels great, we've been working for this all year and it's so good to see so many smiles. That's the best part, to see your teammates excited, coaches excited and the fans excited, for me that's the best feeling in the world."
Gaiters quarterback Mason McGriskin (North Bay, ON) was 16-31 with 154 yards. Gregoire rushed for 14 carries for 57 yards.
On the defensive side of the ball Royer had eight tackles for the Gaiters, as did BU player of the game Keagan Hughes (West Kelowna, BC), along with a sack.
Makayeo Hall (Ottawa, ON) was the leading tackler for the X-Men with seven.
The X-Men cap off an undefeated season, having gone 6-0 in regular season play and 2-0 in the AUS playoffs.
The now look ahead to Saturday, November 27th where they will face the OUA champion Western Mustangs in the U SPORTS Mitchell Bowl in London, Ont.
Courtesy Krista McKenna, STFX Athletics