2019 USPORTS Mid-Season Update
By Ameeta Vohra
With the USPORTS season inching closer to the playoffs, there have been many highs and lows in the first half of the season.
Here is a review of the highlights so far by conference, where teams stand in their conferences, statistical leaders and how Junior National Team members (present or alum) are faring deep into season.
The Acadia Axemen are the leaders of the pack midway through the AUS season with a 5-0 record. It’s in huge part to the contributions from a group of players that helped Canada win gold at the 2018 IFAF World Junior Championships in Mexico City including defensive lineman Anderson Recker, wide receiver Glodin Mulali, who leads the league in receiving statistics with 443 yards on 24 receptions and 3 touchdowns (average of 18.5 yards per reception). Mulali is also ranked in the top five for returns with 204 yards on 12 returns (average of 17 yards per return) and third in all-purpose yards with 763.
For his part, Recker has 16 tackles (11 solo and 10 assisted), three sacks and 6.5 tackles for a loss.
One explosive combination on offense has been the chemistry between pivot Hunter Guenard and running back Dale Wright. Guenard leads the league in passing with 87 completions in 147 attempts for 1338 yards and 10 touchdowns. Wright has amassed 542 yards in 93 carries.
In second place is Saint Mary’s Huskies. Sporting a 3-2 record, the Huskies defense is highlighted by Aidan John, who represented Canada’s under-18 team at the 2018 International Bowl in Arlington, Texas.
The surprise of the season has been Bishop’s Gaiters’ improvement. With a 3-3 mark so far this season, Nathan Walker leads the league in all-purpose yards with 1105.
Mount Allison Mounties improved their record to 2-4 after a big win over the Huskies in Halifax over the weekend. James Parker leads the league in kicking with 53 points – 14 field goals made in 20 attempts and a perfect 11 one-point conversions, not missing a single one in six games. Parker’s 56 points also ranks him at the top for scoring.
On defense, the secondary is highlighted by Lucas Cormier who has represented New Brunswick in multiple Football Canada Cup tournaments and a pair of consecutive International Bowl appearances (2018, 2019).
Defending conference champions StFX X-Men are at the bottom of the standings with a 1-5 mark so far this season. Linebacker Gordon Whyte leads the lead in defense with 47.5 tackles (40 solo and 14 assisted) while Alex Fedchun is second with 41 tackles (30 solo and 22 assisted). Additionally, Kieran Burnham is the league leader in punting with 1375 yards on 32 punts for an average of 43 yards per punt.
This season, the Montreal Carabins are leading the conference with a perfect 6-0 record. A major reason for their success has been 2013 World Team and 2012 IFAF World Junior Championship gold medallist Louis-Philippe Simoneau. The kicker leads the league in scoring with 64 points, including a perfect 8 for 8 on one point conversions and adding a league leading 17 field goals.
Another reason for the team’s success has been 2016 IFAF World Junior Championship gold medallist Dimitri Morand. So far this season, the quarterback has 105 completions on 161 attempts for 1206 yards and three touchdowns. Morand is among the leaders in several offensive categories in the RSEQ.
In his rookie campaign with the Carabins, 2018 IFAF World Junior Championship gold medallist Carl Chabot has come into his own as one of the top return specialist. He is among the leaders in almost every single punt and return statistic in the league.
During the 2019 campaign, the Carabins have renewed their rivalry with arch nemesis and defending Vanier Cup Champions Laval Rouge et Or. One of the highlights was the Carabins handing the Rouge et Or their first loss with a 23-18 victory. Both teams will end their regular seasons battling each other on October 20, 2019 in what could be a preview of the Dunsmore Cup (RSEQ final).
One of the highlights of each OUA season is the crosstown rivalry between Ottawa Gee-Gees and Carleton Ravens, led by Junior National Team head coach Steve Sumarah.
The 51st edition of the Panda Game was contested last weekend at TD Place and the Gee-Gees reclaimed Pedro with a 32-10 win over the Ravens.
With so much turnover at the head coaching position within this league, many people wondered how those teams would fare this season. The return of Stefan Ptazsek coupled with the play of 2018 IFAF World Junior Championship gold medal winning quarterback Andreas Dueck has positioned McMaster Marauders into a serious top contender to dethrone the undefeated Western Mustangs from the Yates Cup perch.
Currently, the Marauders are sitting in second place with a 5-1 record. For his part, Dueck has 150 completions in 225 attempts for 1873 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Another team that has improved with a new head coach is the Guelph Gryphons. Ryan Sheahan who was part of the Team Ontario coaching staff that won gold at the 2014 Football Canada Cup in Saskatoon, left his position as offensive coordinator to assume the head coaching reins. So far this season, the Gryphons are 4-2.
Two coaches who left the Western Mustangs and moved into head coaching positions for the first time in their USPORTS careers are struggling through growing pains while rebuilding their respective football programs. Steve Snyder’s Queen’s Gaels are 2-4 while J.P. Circelli’s Windsor Lancers are 1-6 on the season. Of note, Snyder was the offensive coordinator of under-17 Junior National Team that competed at the 2017 North American Championship in Orlando, Florida as well as head coach of the Nova Scotia provincial team at both the 2015 Football Canada Cup in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec and the 2016 tournament in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Meanwhile, Circelli was a coach with Ontario at both the 2017 and 2018 Football Canada Cups. This past summer in Kingston, he led the provincial team as head coach at the 2019 Football Canada Cup.
Speaking of the Mustangs, the team hasn’t lost a step since their disappointment of losing the Vanier Cup to the Rouge et Or. Head coach Greg Marshall brought in new personnel to replace the coaching losses and the team is sitting atop of the standings with a 7-0 record. Previously, the coaching legend helped Canada to a silver medal finish at the 2011 IFAF Senior Men’s Championship in Austria as the team’s offensive coordinator. Additionally, Marshall represented Canada as head coach of the IFAF World Team at the 2012 International Bowl.
In another tightly contested conference, there has been no consistent frontrunner when it comes to the team to beat.
The Calgary Dinos suffered their first loss at the hands of the Saskatchewan Huskies 29-15. The Dinos are led by 2018 IFAF World Junior Championship gold medallist and 2018 International Bowl MVP Jalen Philpot who leads the league in receiving with 1099 yards on 72 receptions. The Player of the Game from the 2017 North American Championship, David Solie has been contributing this fall to the Huskies.
A team on the rise is Alberta Golden Bears, led by former Team Alberta head coach Chris Morris. The team has improved this season and are 4-2 so far, notching wins against the Huskies (19-17) and the Manitoba Bisons (29-26).
2016 IFAF World Junior Championship gold medal winning and University of British Columbia (UBC) Thunderbirds linebacker Nick Cross leads the league in tackles with 77 (56 solo and 21 assisted).