X-Men spoil Gaiters homecoming with 37-27 victory

Courtesy Bishop's Athletics
Courtesy Bishop's Athletics

SHERBROOKE, QC - The Bishop's Gaiters scored a pair of late touchdowns, but could not complete a second straight miracle comeback, as they dropped a 37-27 decision to the St. Francis Xavier X-Men in Atlantic University Sport action at Coulter Field, Saturday.

The X-Men lead 23-1 at halftime, and 30-12 after the third quarter. The Gaiters mounted a charge near the end, on touchdowns by Nathan Walker and Alex Bouffard but could not overcome the deficit.

The Gaiters got off to a slow start offensively, putting up only 20 total yards in the first quarter. However, the defence held the X-Men to a pair of field goals by Jonathan Heidebrecht, and StFX led 6-0 after the first quarter.

The X-Men broke the game open in the second quarter, as Josh Millar hit on a pair of big plays, the first a 72-yard pass to Kaion Julien-Grant and the second a 75-yard strike to Greg McDonald. Between the two X-Men majors, the Gaiters put together their best drive of the game, a 10-play, 44-yard march, but came away with only a single point. A 48-yard field goal by Heidebrecht with three seconds left in the half rounded out the scoring as the X-Men led 23-1 at halftime.

The Gaiters surprised StFX on the opening kickoff of the second half with a pooch kick, but were forced to settle for a 24-yard field goal by Vincent Dube. Later, Millar's third touchdown pass of the day, a 20-yarder to Julien-Grant, gave the X-Men their largest lead of the day, at 30-4.

Bishop's finally found pay dirt with five minutes left in the third, as Mathieu Demers scored on a quarterback sneak from one yard out. He then connected with Dashaun Smellie on a two-point conversion, making the score 30-12.

Julien-Grant scored his third touchdown of the game 2:28 into the fourth quarter, as he ran a punt back 91 yards for a touchdown. The Gaiters offence got untracked midway through the final frame, as Demers drove the Gaiters from their own 12 to the StFX 9. After his run set the Gaiters up on first and goal, he left with an injury, and was replaced by rookie Stephen Casey. Casey threw his first university touchdown two plays later, a 9-yarder to Nathan Walker. Walker then made the conversion, scoring on an end-around, to make the score 37-20.

The Gaiters forced a two-and-out, and Casey led the Gaiters on a six-play, 65-yard drive, capped by a three-yard pass to Alex Bouffard, to pull Bishop's within 10 with 1:11 to play. However, the hopes of a comeback for the ages were dashed when Bishop's was unable to convert on the short kickoff.

For the Gaiters, Demers finished with 206 yards as he went 29-for-43 passing. He also carried six times for 18 yards and a touchdown. Stephen Casey's first AUS action was successful, as he went 4-for-8 for 44 yards and two touchdowns. Keith Normandin had a nice day in the Bishop's backfield, finishing with 69 yards on eight carries. Walker had 10 catches for 76 yards, including a touchdown.

X-Men quarterback Josh Millar finished with 356 yards passing as he went 24 for 38 and threw three touchdowns. Jordan Socholotiuk was the visitors' leading rusher, with 18 carries for 68 yards. Julien-Grant had six catches for 124 yards and two touchdowns, while McDonald caught four balls for 101 yards and a major.

Julien-Grant led the X-Men with 312 all-purpose yards, including 188 on punt returns, while Walker had 186 for the Gaiters, including 96 total return yards.

Defensively, Arnaud Dandin led the Gaiters with eight tackles and broke up one pass. Jeremy Magan-France had the only sack for Bishop's, while Nicholas Cartagenise made his first career interception, a 31-yard runback in the first quarter.

Jonah Williams's nine tackles led StFX, while Jeremy Pike and Jimmie Cunningham each had one sack.

The Gaiters are off next week, and return to action on Saturday, Oct. 7, when they host the Acadia Axemen at Coulter Field. StFX is back in action next Saturday for their Homecoming game, where they will welcome Saint Mary's. Kick-off is 2:00 pm at Oland Stadium.

Courtesy Bishop's Gaiters Communications