The history of Mount Allison football is one of inconsistency. Both Vanier Cup appearances in 1984 and 1991 were followed by lean years in the win column. This is often the result of losing key players to graduation.
After winning the Atlantic University playoffs in 1997, the Mounties again struggled for results in the years that followed, as demonstrated by three straight winless seasons from 2003-2005. More recently, after a 4-4 season in 2010, the team saw its fourth winless record in 10 years in 2011.
The historically unsustainable nature of the Mt. A program is something Athletic Director Pierre Arsenault is well aware of. “Every time after that core group has graduated, you’ve seen the retreat back to something lesser,” he said.
The Mounties entered 2016 facing challenges that had been crippling to teams in the past. “Last year clearly was the graduation of a big chunk of our core that won two championships,” Arsenault said.
Players knew that this season would be different from the last few years. “[There were] a lot of question marks, a lot of turnover on the team,” said fifth-year linebacker Kyle Horseman. “We had no clue who our quarterback would be.”.
Along with a younger team, this season the Mounties had a new head coach: Scott Brady, an Mt. A graduate and football alumni. A member of the Mounties coaching staff since 2010, Brady is a “true student of the game,” according to the the long-time voice of the Mounties, Steve Riddlington. Brady is, “one of the hardest working coaches I’ve ever seen,” said Horseman. A work ethic that he demands from his players.
The Mounties started the season with three losses, but were able to come together at the end of the season, finishing the last five games with a winning record.
After beating Acadia at home, the team advanced to its fourth straight Loney Bowl, a first for Mt. A football, before losing to St. FX in Antigonish.
The results at the end of the season were indicative of the growth of the team.. “The way we were playing at the end of the year showed the dramatic level of improvement and the leadership from the coaching staff,” Arsenault said.
This year’s success, following a large graduating class, is indicative of a turning point for football at Mt. A, the birth of a winning culture. “It means we have the right guy for the job,” said Pierre Arsenault, referring to Brady.
Since his first year in 2012, Horseman has seen the development of a winning culture. “I think with anything you have to take your steps and pay your dues. I think that’s why we were so good. We had guys that didn’t start with big roles and we were okay with that and we’re okay with excelling with what the coaches put forward,” Horseman said.
Second year defensive lineman, Donovan Glave described the family atmosphere of the team as a reason for committing to Mt. A. An attitude he attributes to their ability to overcome the adversity faced this season. “Everyone was really playing for one another,” said Glave.
The team’s success can be traced to how the coaching approached the young team. “There was a good balance between setting expectations high and allowing for mistakes. I think that’s what helped us keep our mind off the things that we’re not in control of. We are not in control of the fact that people graduated but we are in control of what we can do with a young team,” Glave said.
With three consecutive AUS rookie of the years in running-back Chris Reid, defensive lineman Donovan Glave and quarterback Jakob Loucks, the Mounties have a young core that they will look to move forward with.
Building on the accomplishments of this year, the team already has sights set on next season. “My mentality is that next season already started, I had my week to take a break,” said Glave. “[It starts] in the weightroom and I feel like everyone is on the same page.”
After the hard-fought loss to the X-Men, Arsenault is confident the program has a bright future. “We know what [it] feels like to be at the Loney Bowl, and our aspirations continue to be that and bigger.”
“I see them being able to take that next step forward,” said Horseman. “The list goes on of guys that really want to win and have passion to win, and with Brady, I think they can do unbelievable things.”