Fresh­man quar­ter­back Bai­ley Was­dal set­tling in

X-men to host Gaiters Satur­day af­ter­noon

The Casket - - SPORTS - COREY LEBLANC coreyle­blanc@the­cas­ket.ca

Bai­ley Was­dal — lit­er­ally and fig­u­ra­tively — is off and run­ning as the start­ing quar­ter­back for the St. F.X. X-men.

Af­ter a red­shirt sea­son with the Cal­gary Di­nos in U Sports com­pe­ti­tion, the fresh­man pivot played three sea­sons with the highly-re­garded Cal­gary Colts of the Prairie Foot­ball Con­fer­ence in the Cana­dian Ju­nior Foot­ball League (CJFL), be­fore mak­ing his way to the Antigo­nish cam­pus.

“I was look­ing to come and play right away, so it was just a per­fect fit,” the 6’1”, 193-pound pivot said, when asked about his move to the Antigo­nish cam­pus.

Was­dal made the con­nec­tion with the St. F.X. foot­ball pro­gram through Clay Masikewich, a for­mer X-men quar­ter­back and as­sis­tant coach, who also played the po­si­tion for the Colts.

“We start­ing talking and, right away, the fit was so good,” he said of his first phone con­ver­sa­tion with X-men head coach Gary Water­man.

“They were look­ing for an older guy – they didn’t want a guy out of high school, they wanted some­one who could come and com­pete right away.” Was­dal did just that. “The coaches thought Bai­ley showed us enough,” Water­man said of the de­ci­sion to make him the starter.

He noted there was a “healthy com­pe­ti­tion” for the role dur­ing train­ing camp.

“Ob­vi­ously, everyone is a lot big­ger and faster here,” Was­dal said, when talking about the dif­fer­ences in the game at the AUS level.

With­out his time with the Colts, he added, he would not have been able to step into the starter’s role so soon.

“The pace wasn’t too much quicker, so I was able to adapt and ad­just re­ally quickly,” Was­dal said.

One of his chal­lenges has been di­gest­ing a much larger play­book with the X-men.

“Our schemes are quite a bit more ad­vanced. We have quite a bit more prepa­ra­tion go­ing into it, which is also re­ally great be­cause a lot of things that I have never re­ally thought about be­fore Coach Goldie [of­fen­sive co-or­di­na­tor War­ren Goldie] has got me prepped for now,” Was­dal said.

Bounc­ing back

Af­ter open­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son with a 20-13 road loss to the ri­val Saint Mary’s Huskies, the X-men evened their record with a thrilling 30-24 come-from-be­hind vic­tory, in over­time, against the de­fend­ing con­fer­ence cham­pion Aca­dia Ax­e­men.

“It was a great char­ac­ter win,” Water­man said of the Aug. 31 home opener.

Af­ter tak­ing “way too many penal­ties” against the Huskies, he added, the team “bounced back” and im­proved their per­for­mance.

“But, we also know there re­mains a lot of work to do,” Water­man noted. in reg­u­la­tion on a two­yard plunge by Jor­dan So­cholotiuk.

Was­dal, who com­piled 52 yards on nine car­ries, fin­ished 21-for-32 with 200 yards through the air.

“One of the big­gest things, es­pe­cially in that game, which helped get me and us go­ing, was us­ing my legs,” he said, when asked about the strengths of his game.

“It re­ally helped me get set­tled in and, as soon as I started run­ning, it opened up the holes for ‘Soch’ [run­ning back So­cholotiuk] and it, kind of, opened up every­thing else deeper down field [in the pass­ing game].

“It is about us­ing my feet, us­ing my ath­leti­cism – threat­en­ing the de­fense with both my arm and my legs,” Was­dal added.

Water­man said his quar­ter­back, un­der­stand­ably, had some hic­cups in his first AUS reg­u­lar sea­son start, but he showed “great im­prove­ment” against the Ax­e­men, in­clud­ing us­ing his afore­men­tioned speed not only to get

out of pocket and gain rush­ing yards, but also to make throws down field.

“He put a lot of stress on their de­fence,” he added.

With of­fen­sive weapons at his dis­posal, such as So­cholotiuk, who fin­ished the Aca­dia game with 22 car­ries for 128 yards and one touch­down, along with all­cana­dian re­ceiver Kaion Julien­grant (10 catches, 109 yards and two TDS), the fresh­man agreed that has, and will, con­tinue to make his tran­si­tion and de­vel­op­ment much eas­ier.

“It is early on in the sea­son, so we are just try­ing to build that rap­port, build that trust. We are go­ing to con­tinue to work to take that to an­other level,” Was­dal said.

“Some­times, it is just a mat­ter of giv­ing those guys a chance — throw­ing the ball up to them. I have seen al­ready that they will make huge plays for me.”

As for ar­eas of im­prove­ment go­ing for­ward, Was­dal de­scribed foot­work as a “big thing.”

“It is one of those small de­tails that a lot of fans don’t re­ally see but, when we were dis­sect­ing the film, that is, kind of, the key point of em­pha­sis right now,” he said.

“Even though we are getting com­ple­tions on some of the short routes, I re­ally have to work on my feet, and I can still get quicker with my feet, which is go­ing to make throws a lot eas­ier.”

Even with his early suc­cess, Water­man said his first-year quar­ter­back “knows he has a lot of work to do.”

“But, we are cer­tainly see­ing im­prove­ment, which we are con­fi­dent will con­tinue,” he added.

It is early on in the sea­son, so we are just try­ing to build that rap­port, build that trust. We are go­ing to con­tinue to work to take that to an­other level. Bai­ley Was­dal Quar­ter­back

Back in ac­tion

Af­ter a bye week, the X-men will re­turn to ac­tion Satur­day (Sept. 15), when they host the Bishop’s Gaiters.

“They are an ath­letic team,” Water­man said of the up­com­ing op­po­nent, adding the Gaiters have “a lot of a tal­ent.”

Water­man noted the sec­ondyear AUS club, which has new of­fen­sive and de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tors, will take time to gel.

“They are a dan­ger­ous team” he said, adding the X-men ex­pect them to be “fast, phys­i­cal and ag­gres­sive.”

As for hav­ing their bye week in the five-team league this early in the cam­paign, Water­man thinks “it is a good time for us.”

Af­ter what he called a long train­ing camp, fol­lowed by an ex­hi­bi­tion and two reg­u­lar sea­son games, he said the break has pro­vided the op­por­tu­nity to work on fun­da­men­tals and do some film ses­sions.

Water­man added play­ers have had the chance to get “healed up” and also “men­tally recharge.”

Kick-off against Bishop’s is set for 3 p.m.

Bryan Kennedy

Bai­ley Was­dal, a first-year X-men quar­ter­back, read­ies for a pass dur­ing pre-sea­son ac­tion ver­sus the Aca­dia Ax­e­men. The Cal­gary na­tive has been the early sea­son starter for the Blue and White.

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