© John DeCoste - kingscountynews.ca
Head coach Jeff Cummins with Darcy Lavoie - one of three first-year quarterbacks vying for a spot in the starting lineup
By John DeCoste
Talent and experience at skill positions - running back, receiver and defensive back – may be the key to success for this year’s Axemen.
Acadia has lost a handful of starters since last season, including all-Canadian quarterback and punter Kyle Graves.
While the loss of the two-time conference player of the year will have an impact, Coach Jeff Cummins said he feels good about this year’s team. “Guys graduate and move on (every year). I look at it as an opportunity for other players to step in.”
The team has a goal in mind, he said.
“You always want to win a national championship. We’ll be looking for a ‘three-peat’ in the AUFC, and to host the conference championship here in Wolfville.”
As for what to expect from the rest of the Atlantic conference, Cummins said, “everyone wants to beat the champ.
“The AUS teams will bring their best every week. When we play outside the conference, it will be Laval and their record speaks for itself.”
Cummins received good news when Taylor Renaud and defensive back Cam Wade, both all-Canadians, committed to return for a fifth year.
“We will have a lot of experience at running back, receiver and defensive back, and those players will be counted on to provide veteran leadership,” Cummins said just before the start of last week’s training camp.
On offence, Cummins is confident Evan Brown, with four years’ experience as a backup, will be able to step in and get the job done at quarterback. In the mix to challenge Brown for a place in the starting lineup are Darcy Lavoie, Liam MacQuorquodale and Cody Cluett, all freshmen.
Returnees at running back include Thomas Troop, Zach Skibin, Zach Clarke, Darryl Bien Aime and Derek Wodz.
At receiver, the return of Renaud is a plus, but the Axemen also have Andrew Healy, Scott Kelly, Tristan Hercules, Brian Jones, Eli Prochnau, Jordan Koch and Jasper Goodwin, as well as recruits Kory Morgan and Shaquille Holmes.
The offensive line saw some turnover with the loss of Tyler Honeywood, Colin Murray and Wade Conrad. Starters James Young and Chris Fanning return. J.M. Breen, Ethan Charters and Marcus MacIsaac all saw action last season.
Recruits include a pair of former CEGEP players from Quebec - Alex Dodier and Sean Biard - Brennan Turner from Sir John A. Macdonald High School and Central Kings grad Justin Murphy.
Ryan Begin takes over as punter; he and Thomas Blight will again split up the placekicking duties.
On defence, Acadia will be strong in the backfield, where Wade returns to join Sean Stoqua, Brett Backman, Chris Cull, Alex Graham and Sulieman Semalulu.
Drew Morris is the only returning starter at linebacker, but Evan Williams, Brayden Guy and Derek Naugler all have experience. Nova Scotian Matt Nettle, Taylor Barclay, Ottawa, and Sheldon McDonald, B.C., are highly regarded recruits.
On the defensive line, Kirby Fletcher is a returning starter. Jesse St. James, Martin Pesek and Brady Paul also have experience as starters.
Horton grad Adam Melanson, who played last season at Champlain College (CEGEP), has a chance to play, Cummins said. Nathan Conway, formerly of Mount A and most recently Holland College, is another transfer.
Freshmen recruits include Erik Richard from Moncton and Jesiah Hathaway, a six-foot-six-inch, 300-pounder from Cole Harbour.
Aug. 31 – Acadia at St. F.X (exhibition)
Sept. 6 – Acadia at Saint Mary’s
Sept. 14 – Laval at Acadia, 2 p.m.