They came back from a 17-point deficit with 18 consecutive second half points. But this effort fell short by just 48 seconds as the St. Mary’s Huskies drove the field in the dying minutes to set a chip shot field goal to down the hometown Mounties 27-25 in a penalty-filled Atlantic Universities Football Conference matchup on Saturday afternoon on Alumni Field.
But the Mounties finally proved a point. After being unable to find the opposing end zone for nearly six quarters of football, they suddenly found the magic and clicked.
“Yes,” said starting quarterback Hunter Sturgeon, “we re-opened the playbook at half time and that seemed to be the answer.”
Sturgeon was the offensive star for the Mounties. Although he completed just five of 18 passes for 73 yards, he was the leading rusher with 111 yards on 12 carries to go along with a pair of touchdowns on one-yard runs.
A former Leo Hayes quarterback, he joined the UNB Reds in the Maritime Senior League before transferring to Mount Allison.
“Although we had some very good players at UNB, the players in this conference are in much better condition and far better coached and it is a pleasure to compete.”
The Mounties were sluggish throughout the first half and managed just seven first downs and a total of 55 yards of offense. But it was a rock ribbed defense led by a quick and big line and outstanding “bird-dogging” by the secondary that made it possible for them to turn the game into an exciting battle.
Conference all-star kicker Brian Hope got the Huskies on the boards with a neat field goal midway through the first quarter and Liam O’Brien notched the first of a trio of touchdowns five minutes as the Huskie offense, led by import quarterback Josh Shim, kept the Mounties at bay.
They added another 10 points to go up 17-0 before Sturgeon engineered a drive ending with his TD.
The Mounties kicked off to open the third quarter only to have the Huskies run the ball into their zone and three plays later O’Brien hit again. But the home squad showed plenty of grit and before the dust had died down they were up by one – 25-24 with four minutes remaining.
But the Huskies were anything but dead as they took control and marched to the Mountie 12 before Hope decided the outcome with his chip shot.
This was the second loss for the Mounties while the Huskies are 2-0 following a drubbing of Bishop’s a week earlier. But the second half energy by the Mounties brought renewed hope for better things to come.
A find in Terrell Connell resulted in his return of eight punts for 125 yards and Nathan Jones who ran back kicks for 149 yards on six tries. Leading the Mountie defensive corps were Dan Bell of Saint John, who recorded seven solo tackles, while former Titan Dylan Cormier registered 6.5.
Robbie Walker and Josh Hicks combined for 61 yards through the air to lead in that division and Adam Bennett picked up 58 tough yards along the ground.
The Mounties enjoy an off weekend this week and then travel to play Bishop’s on Sept. 14 and the following weekend visit Acadia. As a result, they will not return home until Sept. 29 when the St. FX X-Men come to town.
If they continue to improve as they did in the final 30 minutes on Saturday it could be a far different team one month from now.