Po­lar op­po­sites on the grid­iron

To­day’s Is­land Mariners-Saint John Wan­der­ers play­off game is a matchup of dif­fer­ences

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - SPORTS - BY CHARLES REID

If op­po­sites at­tract, then the Mon­tana’s BBQ & Bar Is­land Mariners-Saint John Wan­der­ers play­off clash could be ex­plo­sive.

The teams meet in one of two Mar­itime Foot­ball League (MFL) semi­fi­nals to­day with a berth in the McIn­tyre Cup cham­pi­onship on the line.

Kick­off is 4 p.m. in Saint John, N.B.

Saint John is the five-time de­fend­ing MFL champ and has an 18-0 reg­u­lar sea­son record dur­ing the last three cam­paigns, in­clud­ing this year’s league-best 6-0 mark.

The Mariners, mor­phed and re­branded this sea­son from the Char­lot­te­town Pri­va­teers, went 0-6 in their ini­tial sea­son los­ing by a com­bined 78-23 in two games ver­sus Saint John.

The de­funct Pri­va­teers were a scrappy lot, but had lit­tle suc­cess in the reg­u­lar sea­son and play­offs. It missed the post­sea­son last year and had lost both of its last two post-sea­son ap­pear­ances.

A new man­age­ment team and out­look hoped to change that this sea­son and, de­spite the record, Mariners head coach Zach David­son is un­de­terred.

“We def­i­nitely have a shot. (One) game (against Saint John) was a one-score game halfway through the fourth quar­ter. They got a cou­ple of late scores,” said David­son, a Hol­land Col­lege alum and for­mer MVP. “Guys need to step up, un­der­stand how close we are. They have to be ready for a fight.”

Mariners line­backer Mitch Os­mond can grasp that. The Riverview, N.B., na­tive knows con­trol­ling long­time Saint John run­ning back John Haines and the ground at­tack is the key. Do that and there’s hope.

“If we can stop him for a loss early, we can get in his head. He gets an­gry and starts to make

mis­takes. We want to force them to pass rather that run over us,” said Os­mond. “The big­gest thing is… we can’t be afraid. They may be big­ger than us, they may be stronger than us but we have to play with heart. Leave it all out there be­cause you never know when it will be your last game.”

Heart is one thing; down play­ers is an­other.

The Mariners are with­out start­ing quar­ter­back Dave Clark, who is coach­ing gym­nas­tics in Cape Breton on Satur­day, and have in­juries to re­ceivers Devin Elsmore and Chad Blan­chard be­ing and run­ning back Ryan Dempsey that will keep them out. Not to men­tion of­fen­sive guard Ken­zie Gert­ley-Gre­gan is out, too.

So back­ups, like cen­tre Dustin Gert­ley-Gre­gan, and young guys are cru­cial as third-year QB Colin Trewin, who came up through the Pri­va­teers mi­nor sys­tem, is about to find out when he gets the start.

But Trewin isn’t a rookie here. He started the last game against Saint John, so he has ideas on how to ex­ploit the Wan­der­ers de­fence, start­ing with putting the pigskin up to help run­ning back/de­fender Richard Lush on both sides of the ball.

“They’re not the quick­est. Def­i­nitely want to throw the ball against th­ese guys, def­i­nitely want to air the ball out,” said Trewin. “It’s our third time (this sea­son) play­ing Saint John so there’s not much un­ex­pected. It’s not un­fa­mil­iar ter­ri­tory. Guys are much more com­fort­able and fo­cus­ing on the task at hand.”

The other semi has the Monc­ton Mus­tangs (4-2) host­ing the Nova Sco­tia Buc­ca­neers (2-4) also at 4 p.m.

Win­ners move on to McIn­tyre Cup at the home of the high­est re­main­ing seed on Satur­day, July 29.

CHARLES REID/THE GUARDIAN

Line­backer Mitch Os­mond, left, lines up against Court­land Lee in a re­ceiv­ing drill at a re­cent Is­land Mariners foot­ball prac­tice. The Mariners face the Saint John Wan­der­ers in Saint John, N.B., in one of two Mar­itime Foot­ball League semi­fi­nals to­day.

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