To say the Concordia Stingers were dominant Saturday afternoon would be an understatement. The football Stingers, led by their defence, didn’t allow any points as they handed the previously unbeaten St. Francis Xavier X-Men their first loss in a 37-0 romp.
The game’s turning point was St. F.X.’s first offensive play. They tried running a reverse in the rain but wide receiver Steve Snyder bobbled the second handoff and last week’s CIS defensive player of the week, Sammy Okpro, recovered the ball and gave the Stingers possession on the X-Men seven yard-line. Two plays later, Scott Syvret found Nick Scissons who made an acrobatic catch, diving towards the back-right corner of the end zone.
The Stingers continued to pour it on in the second quarter. On a drive that started on their own eight yard-line, the Stingers used two big plays to get back into the end zone and extend their lead. With Robert Mackay at quarterback, he found Nick Saikaley wide open downfield who bobbled the ball but hung on to make the catch for a 52-yard gain. Later in that drive, Mackay found Scissons for another touchdown catch, but this one was a bit more unorthodox for a 26-yard touchdown play and a 14-0 lead.
“I was just at the right place at the right time,” Scissons said. “It was basically an interception but the guy bobbled it and basically handed it to me. I stopped for a minute, and said ‘thanks!’ and then ran into the end zone,” he said of his second touchdown catch.
The defence put up another goose egg, not allowing a score and making it nine quarters since Sherbrooke kicker Alain Dorval’s 24-yard field goal, with less than three minutes remaining in the third quarter of their week one game.
With some regulars, including Pat Donovan sitting out for most of the second half, it meant that other all-stars could make a difference in the game. Okpro led the team with 8.5 tackles, while Junior Bishop, usually a halfback who started at the safety spot against the X-Men, had two interceptions returned for a total of 54 yards. Donovan, despite less playing time in the rout, racked up 3.5 tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. J.P. Binette added a fumble recovery as well.
The Stingers special teams unit also stepped up this week. Marc Champagnie caught the Ryan Henderson punt, ran left, then got the block he needed when he reversed the field and went untouched all the way to the end zone, 69 yards later. Stingers head coach Gerry McGrath said after the game that it was the first punt return for a touchdown in “a few years” for the Stingers.
Mike Renaud also did his part in keeping the X-Men off the board. Renaud struck three punts for 141 yards, including a 72-yard rocket in the first half.
Scissons, who added a third touchdown catch late in the first half, said that the defence’s great play takes some of the pressure off of the offence.
“Not having to score gives you the ability to score,” he said. “That’s going to train us so when we do have to score, we’ll be able to do it. We’re comfortable with our defence. We know they aren’t going to give up points when we can’t afford to give up points, so when the offence comes together, we’ll be unstoppable,” Scissons said.
“[The defence] is our MVP right now and we need to work our butts off to keep up with them,” he continued.
McGrath was happy with the performance. And despite the 37-point win and a 3-0 record, he is looking for more improvement.
“Overall, there has been improvement from a week ago but there’s still a ways to go,” he said. “We’re still dropping balls, we’re still not hitting on all cylinders but we’re improving every week, and that’s the most important thing,” he said.
The Stingers now take their act on the road as they play their first game outside of Montreal next week when they take on the Bishop’s Gaiters in Lennoxville on Saturday. They will return home against the McGill Redmen for the Shrine Bowl next Sunday, Oct. 8 at Concordia’s Loyola Field.
1 Laval (1)
2 Saskatchewan (2)
3 McMaster (3)
4 Manitoba (4)
5 Ottawa (5)
6 Concordia (7)
7 Laurier (8)
8 Montreal (10)
9 Sherbrooke (NR)
10 Alberta (9)