Water­man ‘very happy’ with sea­son

X-men cap­ture third AUS foot­ball crown in four sea­sons

The Casket - - Health&wellness - COREY LEBLANC coreyle­[email protected]­cas­ket.ca

It may have ended with a lop­sided loss, but the St. F.X. X-men foot­ball team has wrapped up an­other suc­cess­ful year, which in­cluded a third At­lantic Univer­sity Sport (AUS) crown in four sea­sons.

“I was very happy with our sea­son. I think, com­ing in, we prob­a­bly weren’t the favourite to win the AUS,” head coach Gary Water­man said.

The Blue and White cap­tured the Loney Bowl with a 33-9 road vic­tory over the ri­val Saint Mary’s Huskies.

“It was a huge ac­com­plish­ment,” he said.

One week later, in the na­tional semi­fi­nal, the X-men dropped a 63-0 de­ci­sion to the peren­nial pow­er­house Laval Rouge et Or in the U Sports Uteck Bowl.

As part of fash­ion­ing a 6-2 record in the reg­u­lar sea­son, St. F.X. rode a three-game win­ning streak into the play­offs, be­fore best­ing the Aca­dia Ax­e­men 33-10 in the con­fer­ence semi-fi­nal on home turf at Oland Sta­dium.

“We in­te­grated a new quar­ter­back and some other pieces, and we over­came some ad­ver­sity with in­juries early, and then the guys started to gel and re­ally got on a roll near the end of the sea­son,” Water­man said, in re­flect­ing on the sea­son’s suc­cesses.

“One of the things was the co­he­sive­ness that we ended up de­vel­op­ing. We came to­gether as a team.

“When we had in­juries or things hap­pened ear­lier in the sea­son, I think the play­ers ral­lied – they had a ‘next man up’ men­tal­ity – and ev­ery­one came to­gether for the new guy that came in,” he added.

Water­man de­scribed play­ing to­gether as a “key strength for us.”

An­other sig­nif­i­cant el­e­ment, he noted, was the tremen­dous en­cour­age­ment the pro­gram re­ceived from X-men fans.

“It is much ap­pre­ci­ated – the great sup­port we get from the com­mu­nity,” he said.

Stars shine

Along with the Loney Bowl, the X-men gar­nered a hand­ful of in­di­vid­ual hon­ours, in­clud­ing an AUS out­stand­ing player award [Chris Flynn Tro­phy] for fourth-year re­ceiver Kaion Julien-grant.

The Toronto na­tive led the con­fer­ence with 638 re­ceiv­ing yards, on 49 re­cep­tions, while ty­ing for tops in touch­down catches (five).

Grant, in four sea­sons, set an X-men record with 4,563 ca­reer all-pur­pose yards, which places him sixth in the AUS record book.

His 22 re­ceiv­ing touch­downs is a top­five achievement (fifth).

A two-time first-team All-cana­dian, in 2016 and 2017, Grant also earned AUS all-star nods as a re­ceiver and kick re­turner.

Grant and third-year X-man Kieran Burn­ham – for place-kick­ing and punt­ing – swept spe­cial teams’ all-star hon­ours for the con­fer­ence.

“He was tremen­dous this sea­son. We would love to have him back in the fold for one more year,” Water­man said, not­ing Burn­ham has not made a de­ci­sion on his var­sity fu­ture.

Line­men Tyler Cordeiro (de­fen­sive tackle), Jonathan Zamora (cen­tre) and

Ja­cob Czaja (guard) also gar­nered all-star spots.

The lat­ter tan­dem, along with their of­fen­sive line mates, helped pave the way for an­other 1,000 year sea­son from AUS all-star run­ning back Jor­dan So­cholotiuk.

Water­man, in his 10th sea­son, won con­fer­ence coach of the year (Larry Uteck Tro­phy) for the third time. Next sea­son

Look­ing to­wards next sea­son, the Xmen head coach said “we want to just keep adding depth.”

Not­ing the pro­gram is los­ing some “key vet­eran play­ers,” in­clud­ing in the sec­ondary, Water­man said “it starts with the line of scrim­mage.”

“We want to be able to make sure that we con­tinue to be com­pet­i­tive in that area,” he added.

“There are a num­ber of ar­eas that we want to ad­dress, but we do have some young guys wait­ing in the wings.”

Water­man talked about the grow­ing in­ter­est in the X-men pro­gram.

“When you win your con­fer­ence cham­pi­onship you def­i­nitely get a lot,” he said.

Water­man added the pro­gram al­ready has two key com­mit­ments for next fall, along with sev­eral other play­ers who have made cam­pus vis­its.

“We feel re­ally good about the start. Where we are, right now, we feel like we are ahead of where we have been in the last sev­eral years,” he noted of the re­cruit­ing process.

“Now, it is about con­tin­u­ing to build re­la­tion­ships – hon­ing in on the guys that we think will be a great fit. We think there is a lot of in­ter­est in our pro­gram, so that’s a good sign.”

Eric Wynne

The St. F.X. X-men cel­e­brat­ing win­ning the 2018 Loney Bowl – the third At­lantic Univer­sity Sport (AUS) cham­pi­onship in four sea­sons for the pro­gram.

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