After an impressive 66-0 semi-final victory over the UNBSJ Seawolves, the UNB Red Bombers are now set to host the Atlantic Football League championship game against the Dalhousie Tigers.
The game will take place Saturday, Nov. 1, at BMO Field; kick-off is scheduled for 1 p.m.
The top-seeded Red Bombers have reached the championship largely thanks to their first-ranked offence, which scored over fifty points more than any other team in the league throughout the season.
Their well-rounded offence is led by rookie quarterback Hunter Sturgeon, whose addition last summer can be seen as one of the catalysts for the team’s dramatic improvement.
Red Bombers head coach Dan McCullough was quick to praise in an interview with the Brunswickan on Monday.
“He’s been unbelievable—not only with his arm, but he’s been doing it with his legs as well. He keeps drives alive, he’s got the awareness, he knows when to pull it down and take off running. He knows how to read coverages and get the ball out quickly…He’s been a huge addition to our offence.”
However, no quarterback can win a game by himself. As McCullough pointed out, the entire offensive line has played well and enabled the team to take full advantage of their strong play at the quarterback position.
“Our offensive line has been huge in pass protection and run blocking,” said McCullough, before adding, “We have three or four different running backs that have touchdowns and good rushing yardage. Our receivers are playing well; everything is kind of peaking at the right time.”
Both the Red Bombers offence and defence will undoubtedly be tested by the reigning Dalhousie Tigers, who are coming off a 21-18 win over the Holland Tigers in their semi-final game.
“The thing with Dal is they’re a well-coached team. A couple weeks ago they took a pretty bad loss to Holland College and I kinda wonder if that wasn’t their plan; they sit back and rest a few guys and then come out strong in the semi-final—which they did,” said McCullough.
As for what he expects from the Tigers on Saturday, McCullough said he believes they will see a lot of Dalhousie running back Zach Leger, who he called “one of the best players in the league.” He also pointed to the speed and athleticism of the Tigers’ defence, highlighting the need for accurate passing from his quarterback to prevent turnovers.
The match against Dalhousie marks the Red Bombers’ first trip to the AFL finals since they last won in 2012. The fact that they will have the opportunity to break that drought on their home turf only adds to the team’s excitement.
“It’s great to be there—and it’s even better to host it at home in front of our fans. It’s going to be a great atmosphere and it’s going to be a great football game,” McCullough said.
“It’s about time the people of Fredericton get to enjoy a good calibre championship game like this.”