It's hard not to feel great about the Mount Allison Mounties' turnaround success this season. So unexpected given their recent history, so hard to discount given their level of play. The Mounties are not posting fluke victories here; this team is playing hard and earning their wins.
As a perennial also-ran program the 2010 season is a shining exception to the norm for the tiny school from Sackville, New Brunswick. A big part of that success is AUS Most Valuable Player and multiple Atlantic record holder Gary Ross.
The past two weeks the all-Canadian has been sidelined with a hand injury and despite playing hard, the Mounties lost both games. This past weekend, Ross returned to action and immediately made an impact, accumulating 176 all purpose yards through receiving, kick returns and rushing.
The Acadia Axemen (#10) had just returned Atlantic representation to the Top 10 once again this past week by overcoming an 18-1 deficit to these same Mounties last weekend en route to a win that placed them in first place in the AUS. This week they were unable to overcome and lost 20-7.
There is now a three-way tie atop the AUS after Saint Mary's defeated St. Francis Xavier 41-6 on Friday night. All three teams now sport a 3-3 record, with another big game this coming weekend as the Mounties face the Huskies who will be looking for revenge of their own for a narrow loss to Mount Allison earlier in the season.
There should be an exciting race to the finish on the East Coast. The perfect story would be written to have Ross play a role in ensuring the Mounties find themselves perched atop the conference looking for postseason success to follow. Ross has been the face of this Mounties team for a number of years now, a highly skilled and talented player committed to staying with the program, even if they have been on the wrong side of the scoreboard far more often than not. In his final year, success would be well deserved for a player like Ross.
If it happens or even if it does not this season is already a tremendous story in the world of CIS football. And that story could not have been written without the inclusion of Gary Ross causing havoc for opposing defences in the AUS. This week it was great to see him return to the field and help lead his team to the win.
A full slate of games returned to the CIS this weekend, with a few major tilts that will have a significant impact on the playoff picture and the FRC-CIS Top 10 as well.
Starting at the top the Laval Rouge et Or (#1) hosted the Bishop's Gaiters (#5), who sit second in the conference. What could have been a clash of the titans turned into a show of dominance by the seven-time defending conference champions as Laval rolled to a 62-0 win. While compiling 580 yards of total offence the Laval defence held Bishop's to 71 yards themselves and minus-46 yards rushing on the day.
The Rouge et Or, following a hotly-contested, low-scoring showdown with Montreal last weekend, reasserted their dominance in Quebec and the basis for their ranking atop the nation.
A highly anticipated rematch took place out west with the Calgary Dinos (#2) traveling to Saskatoon to battle the Saskatchewan Huskies (#8). The last game between these two was hot tempered, resulted in a number of player injuries, and resulted in Calgary coach Blake Nill receiving a one game suspension for a comment made to a Huskies player. In that game, the Huskies came away with a convincing win, and this week the result was much the same with a 36-17 Saskatchewan victory.
Laurence Nixon put in another strong effort for the Huskies passing for 271 yards and two touchdowns with one interception the one blemish, a pick that was returned 41 yards by Nico Higgs for a Dinos score. The game also saw the first return for two-time Hec Creighton winner Erik Glavic who made a late appearance in relief of Eric Dzwilewski, going 6-for-7 for 86 yards passing.
Just like the CanWest conference the Western Mustangs (#3) had a bye week for Thanksgiving and they returned to face the York Lions. The last place Lions were unable to match the intensity of the Mustangs who claimed the win with ease in another blowout victory, 76-0. There were plenty of impressive figures that naturally comes along with this kind of lopsided win but two things stand out most here: Western's Theo Feroiu recorded 10 tackles on the day, and the Mustangs prized recruit QB Ben Rossong saw the field. Rossong went 2-for-4 for 15 yards of receiving while rushing for 23 yards, including a one-yard touchdown plunge.
The Regina Rams (#4) continued to make their pitch for the conference crown by defeating Manitoba 41-19. Despite starting out very flat, falling behind 18-0 to the Bisons in the first quarter, the Rams stormed back to outscore their opponents 41-1 over the next three. Adrian Charles put in a very impressive effort for Regina rushing for 222 yards and two touchdowns. Rams LB Bruce Anderson also put in a strong showing on defence for the Rams with six solo and five assisted tackles on the day. With the win Regina and the Calgary loss Regina now sits alone at the top of Canada West with a 5-1 record.
The Ottawa Gee-Gees (#6) had their bye week this weekend so they did not play. However the Montreal Carabins (#7) did, and fresh off their battle with Laval last weekend, exacted revenge for their loss by taking down the McGill Redmen, 30-7. The Carabins controlled the game throughout with McGill adding a late score to break the shutout.
And rounding out the Top 10 the McMaster Marauders (#9) defeated Toronto 40-21 in their match up this weekend. A big 20 point third quarter propelled MAC to the win, who were trailing by a score of 21-17 to Toronto at the half. Despite the loss the Jekyll and Hyde Varsity Blues, seemingly a different team from week to week, still managed to play well against a conference contender once again this season. MAC was able to pile on the yardage in spite of the close final outcome, finishing off with an impressive 646 yards of total offence, highlighted by Kyle Quinlan's 306 yards passing and three touchdowns passes on the day.