St. FX hopes to break decade-plus drought for AUS football teams

St. FX won its second-straight AUS championship last weekend, defeating the Mount Allison Mounties 21-14. (Bryan Kennedy - image credit)
St. FX won its second-straight AUS championship last weekend, defeating the Mount Allison Mounties 21-14. (Bryan Kennedy - image credit)

It's been a long time since an Atlantic University Sport team has played in the Vanier Cup.

The last AUS team to make it to the U Sports national football championship was the Saint Mary's Huskies in 2007.

On Saturday at 1 p.m. AT, the hometown St. FX X-Men are hoping to buck that trend when they play the Canada West champion University of Saskatchewan Huskies in the Uteck Bowl in Antigonish, N.S.

The X-Men, unbeaten in conference play this season, go into the game as underdogs, but they will have a home crowd.

"It's always nice to be at home so you can sleep in your own bed and eat at your familiar spots," said St. FX head coach Gary Waterman, a five-time AUS coach of the year. "We can't be worrying about what has happened in the past."

David Cox
David Cox

Since that 2007 win, AUS teams have lost 13 straight national semifinals by an average margin of about five converted touchdowns.

St. FX was the AUS winner last year, but was pounded 61-6 by the Western University Mustangs in London, Ont. Western went on to win the Vanier Cup.

"We're just going to go out there and play our game," said Dyton Blackett, a linebacker who played high school football at Northeast Kings Education Centre in the Annapolis Valley. "We'll just all work together and try to control what we can control."

David Cox
David Cox

While Blackett and the St. FX defence will do their best to limit the Mustangs, the X-Men will need a big day out of their offence.

Running back Malcolm Bussey will be a key figure in the X-Men attack. He is the AUS nominee for the Hec Crighton Trophy, awarded annually to the most outstanding football player in U Sports.

"I feel confident in our team that we'll perform to the best of our abilities this weekend," said Bussey, a Hammonds Plains native who left Nova Scotia after Grade 8 to play high school football in New Hampshire.

"We need to bring the energy, play hard and play fast. If we do that, I think we can hang with them."

Bussey, whose grandfather played football at St. FX, ran for 11 touchdowns this season.

St. FX went 8-0 in conference play and defeated the Mount Allison Mounties 21-14 in last week's conference final in Antigonish. Bussey ran for 116 yards and a touchdown in the win.

Ranked 6th in country

St. FX goes into the game ranked sixth in the country while Saskatchewan is ranked fourth.

The Huskies had a 7-1 regular season and defeated the UBC Thunderbirds 23-8 for the conference banner.

No. 1-ranked Western and No. 2 Laval Rouge et Or will meet later in the day in the Mitchell Bowl in London. The Vanier Cup is Nov. 26 at Western Alumni Stadium.