After losing a year of USports football to COVID — 19,604 spectators poured into Coulter Field in Lennoxville, Que., to watch the Gaiters play their first home game in two years.
Unfortunately, the Mount Allison Mounties pulled of a late scoring drive for a close-fought 10-7.
“Obviously we would have like a different result but it’s still a long season,” said Gaiters coach Nicolas Cherif, after the game. “We are going to correct the mistakes and move on.”
Simply being there made the loss a little easier.
“Obviously it was a great feeling to be out with the guys, and see them play, see their smiles during warm up and all that,” he said.
The Mounties picked off Bishop’s quarterback Maxim Bouffard with 2:37 to go, deep in Gaiters territory, and then scored on a pass from Justin Vogels to Adam Shambemirada for the game’s first touchdown.
They successfully completed the two-point conversion to push their lead to 10-7 with 1:24 to go.
Bishops had two more possessions, but Owen O’Neal came up huge for the Mounties, intercepting Bouffard to spoil the Gaiters homecoming in dramatic fashion.
Gaiters defensive back Aaron Franklin put on a show early on, helping the team gain momentum by intercepting Mount Allison quarterback Julian Wytinck in the first quarter.
Bishops kicker Noah Laursen put the first point of the game on the board for the home team with a rouge. They added onto their lead six minutes later after forcing a safety, before surrendering a safety of their own on the very next drive, 3-2 Bishops after one quarter.
On the first play of the second quarter veteran Gaiters linebacker Keagan Hughes came up with a huge sack.
A leader on the team for the past three years, Hughes enters his final season with the team after the off year.
“I am very thankful for it because not many players get the opportunity to play their last year and specially when that pandemic happens. It took a lot of eligibility away from lots of athletes,” he said.
Mounties showed an impressive defensive line, as they were able to hold off the Gaiters pressure and keep the ball out of the endzone despite Bishop’s controlling the time of possession.
After a defensive oriented first half that saw an interception, a fumble, two safeties, two Bishop’s missed field goals, and two one-point scores from the home side, the Gaiters entered the locker room up 4-2.
Cherif did not think many adjustments were needed at the half.
“At the end of the day we just need to execute better on offence and clean up some stuff in the red zone and defence needs to keep playing like they did,” he said.
Gaiters defence continued to shine at the end of the third quarter, with Justin Vogels now in at QB for the Mounties, Bishop’s forced another safety, extending their lead to 6-2.
Early in the fourth quarter Yani Gouadfel picked off a Vogels pass and returned it 43-yards, but the Gaiters were unable to turn it into any points.
Laursen added another rouge point on a missed field goal with seven minutes to go, pushing the Gaiter lead to 7-2, but the Mounties spoiled the fairy tale ending.
Gaiters have a chance to get back on track next Saturday when they travel to Antigonish, N.S., to take on the St. Francis Xavier X-Men.