An interception by Hayden Peters in the final minute of the game Saturday punched the ticket of the St. Francis Xavier X-Men to the national university football semifinals.
Peters, the former Sydenham Golden Eagle and Kingston Grenadier, picked off a Brandon Leyh pass at the St. F.X. 40-yard line and returned it 67 yards with just 28 seconds left in the Atlantic conference championship game in Sackville, N.B. From the three-yard line, the X-Men were able to kill the clock and complete a 14-12 victory over the defending conference champion Mount Allison Mounties.
Jordan Heidebrecht kicked a 45-yard field goal in the final minute to put the X-Men ahead.
St. F.X. will now host the British Columbia Thunderbirds in the Uteck Bowl Saturday in Antoginish, N.S. Game time will be 4 p.m. EST.
It was a day of upsets in Canadian University Sport. In addition to St. F.X. knocking off regular-season and two-time defending champion Mount Allison, in Ontario the Guelph Gryphons upset the Western Mustangs 23-18 in the Yates Cup; defending Vanier Cup champion Montreal edged Laval 18-16 in the Dunsmore Cup game at Quebec City, and the Calgary Dinos, undefeated and ranked No. 1 virtually all season, bowed at home, 34-26, to UBC.
Co-ordinated by former Queen’s Golden Gaels player and coach Bob Mullen, the X-Men defence allowed just its second touchdown in the last six games. St. F.X. has allowed 87 points in its last seven games, 14 of them coming from a pair of fumble-recovery touchdowns in a 27-17 loss to Mount Allison Oct. 10.
That game left St. F.X. with a 2-3 record. Since then, the X-Men have won five in a row, surrendering just 45 points in doing so, as they claimed the school’s first conference title since 1996.
Peters is one of two former Grenadiers who are stalwarts on the X defence. Named this week to the conference all-star team, he had three interceptions during the regular year, and three of the 12 tackles for loss the X-Men pinned on Mount Allison on Saturday.
Dylan Bell, another former Grenadier from Belleville, also plays in the secondary. He had two interceptions in St. F.X.’s 26-4 win over Acadia in last week’s semifinal.
Two other former Gaels are on the St. Francis Xavier coaching staff—Jim Daley, who co-ordinates the special teams, and Bob Howes, who instructs the linemen. Howes this week was named the conference nominee for the Gino Fracas award, as the top volunteer assistant coach in Canada.
In London, with Stevenson Bone playing quarterback for Western in place of injured Hec Crighton nominee Will Finch, the Mustangs watched a 17-10 lead evaporate in the fourth quarter, as Guelph tied the game early in the period on a 36-yard pass from James Roberts to Jacob Scarfone, and later two Gabe Ferraro field goals to win it.
For the Gryphons, it was the first Yates Cup title since 1996.
Bone’s performance was adequate, as he completed 21 of 39 passes for 236 yards, but what the Mustangs didn’t count on was him being the team’s top rusher. He wound up carrying the football 16 times for 85 yards, and both Western touchdowns.
The Gryphons held Alex Taylor, the second-leading rusher in Canada this season (1,068 yards) to just 58 yards on the ground. They sacked Bone four times, with John Rush putting lhim on his back three times.
Roberts was 14-for-28 for 221 yards. Scarfone finished with six catches for 142 yards while Johnny Augustine carried the football 19 times, gaining 108 yards.
Western, en route to establishing a CIS record for points—491 in eight games—scored at least 46 points in every regular-season game this year. The Mustangs scored 32 in their semifinal win over Laurier a week ago.
The Mustangs, however, didn't play Guelph, which finished 7-1 in the regular year. The Gryphons’ only loss was suffered at Queen’s, a 23-15 defeat on Oct. 3.
The Gryphons will host Montreal in the Mitchell Bowl, Saturday, at 12:30 p.m.