With the new year looming, it is time to reflect on the 2016 AUS football season. The season would see the Saint Francis Xavier X-Men go undefeated against AUS teams. The Mount Allison Mounties would make a charge starting halfway through their season to secure their place in the Loney Bowl. The Acadia Axemen, entering week eight last in the AUS, would leave Halifax with a playoff spot. The Saint Mary’s Huskies secured their first victory since 2013 and look to a future of increased competition.
Along the way, 2016 saw many defining moments for each football program. Here are LastWordOnUSportsFootball‘s top five moments from the 2016 AUS football season.
Top Five 2016 AUS Football Season Moments
5. Bishop’s Gaiters join AUS football for 2017
Although its effects will not be seen until 2017, this year brought a fifth team to AUS football. The Bishop’s Gaiters, formerly of RSEQ, announced on December 15th that they are making the move to the Atlantic. The move marks a major change both for the Gaiters and for AUS football as a whole. The move will see the AUS playoff format change, and the Gaiters will see competition that better fits their program than the RSEQ. In the move’s announcement, Bishop’s University‘s Dean of Student Affairs Jackie Bailey said, “Joining the AUS for football will allow us to align with universities of similar size, resources and values as they pertain to varsity sport. We are committed to creating a context of excellence for our football program and are excited by the prospect of competing in the AUS.”
U Sports football fans eagerly await the expansion of the AUS for the 2017 season and beyond.
4. Tivon Cook rewrites X-Men history books
The undisputed star of the 2016 AUS football season is St. F.X.’s Tivon Cook. The quarterback from Scarborough, Ontario finished his fifth year with the program on top of the AUS passing categories. Along the way, he claimed new records for the school’s football program. Perhaps the most notable of these being the greatest passing yards in a single season, with a whopping 2537 yards. Cook, along with running back Jordan Socholotiuk, would lead the X-Men’s offensive dominance throughout a season that only saw a loss to the Concordia Stingers of the RSEQ. Cook’s own contributions led to being named as the 2016 AUS Outstanding Player of the Year.
3. Acadia Axemen clinch playoff spot by one yard
The 2016 AUS football season would nearly be one to forget for the Acadia Axemen. They would travel to Halifax, Nova Scotia to face the Huskies in the final matchup of the regular season. The Axemen, with a 1-6 record, would need to win to tie the Huskies 2-6 record and qualify for the playoffs via tiebreaker (most recent winner advances). Axemen quarterback Cody Cluett would ensure Acadia’s lead throughout the game with a strong passing performance, including a 64-yard pass to Cordell Hastings and 88 total yards to Eli Prochnau.
In the dying seconds of the game, Acadia held a 10-3 lead. With their season on the line, the Huskies would force their way up the field with a 64-yard drive in an attempt to tie the game. Quarterback Brock Berglund found Tristen Giusto in the red zone after the clock hit zero. In his last ditch effort to save the Huskies season, Giusto was brought down at the 1-yard line. The Acadia Axemen went on to face the Mounties in the AUS semifinals.
2. St. F.X. X-Men defend Loney Bowl title at home
Mount Allison and St. F.X. would face off in the Loney Bowl for the third consecutive time, the fourth consecutive berth for the Mounties. Of those previous two matchups, both would take place in Mount Allison’s home of Sackville, New Brunswick, with each team coming away with one title. After upsetting the Mounties at home in 2015, the X-Men secured hosting of the 2016 Loney Bowl in their own home of Antigonish, Nova Scotia. Having dominated the 2016 AUS football season and with a previous sweep of the Mounties, St. FX entered the Loney Bowl as heavy favourites.
In 2014, the X-Men would be dominated by the hosting Mounties 29-7 in the Loney Bowl. In 2016, they turned the tables and dominated the Mounties in their own home stadium, with the nearly identical score of 29-8. This saw back-to-back Jewett Trophy claims by the X-Men as champions of AUS football. From this title, St. FX would go on to face the Calgary Dinos in the 2016 Mitchell Bowl.
1. Jakob Loucks wins Peter Gorman Trophy as U Sports football’s Rookie of the Year
2016’s biggest surprise would be the incredible performance of Mount Allison freshman Jakob Loucks. As a replacement for the Mounties star quarterback Brandon Leyh, the pressure was on the young quarterback to helm a previously dominant Mount Allison Mounties. Despite a 0-3 start, Loucks found his stride in a homecoming victory hosting the Acadia Axemen in week four; a game in which Loucks would come away as the star of the game. Loucks would continue this strong leadership of the team throughout a comeback season that would see them qualify for the Loney Bowl for the fourth consecutive year.
Loucks would complete 1325 passing yards on par with Saint Mary’s Brock Berglund and ahead of Acadia’s Cody Cluett, both of whom are experienced AUS quarterbacks. This performance would see Loucks come away with the the Peter Gorman Trophy at the U Sports All-Canadian Banquet. This marks the rookie of the year across all U Sports football. The young quarterback beat out other impressive rookies such as 52nd Vanier Cup champion Laval Rouge-et-Or‘s Adam Auclair for the honour.
Main photo courtesy of Patrick Bannon.