|Shown here are UNB Fredericton Red Bombers Matt Flosse, left, and Elliott Carr collaborating on tackling University of New Brunswick in Saint John Seawolves’ Joel Seale during their first historic meeting at Chapman Field on Sept. 26. The game marked the return of university football to UNB after some 30 years. The Seawolves won this game 16-14 and later beat the Red Bombers 10-6 at home to finish the regular season at 4-0. Bombers finished 1-3. The two teams will meet for a third and final time Saturday to determine the champion for the inaugural season of the Atlantic Football League featuring players between the ages of 18-24.|
Bombers success-story regardless of what happens Saturday
By Robert Touchie
It might have been 30 years coming, but for those involved, it was well worth the wait.
After three decades on the gridiron sidelines, the UNB Frdericton Red Bombers, who won one of four games during the regular season, will be a participant in Saturday's inaugural championship game in the Atlantic Football league.
Providing the opposition will be the pennant-winning and unbeaten University of New Brunswick in Saint John Seawolves, 4-0. The action begins 2 o'clock at Millidgeville Field in Saint John.
It's an intriguing matchup in that both games between the two have been decided by a total of six points. The Seawolves won the first meeting on a last-minute field goal by John Phillips from 24 yards out 16-14 at Chapman Field Sept. 26 and the second 16-10 at Shamrock Park in Saint John Oct. 25.
"We've made great strides this year. It's been a growing experience for all of us associated with the Red Bombers and we hope it's just the beginning of something special for the university, the city and for football in the capital area," said coach Mike Dollimore, a former player at UNB who has also played a major role in the development of the sport at the minor levels.
"The most rewarding thing has been to see the progression that's been made by football in this community, and it's showing on the field at UNB, with about 97% of our talent being local,'' he said.
Local talents such as quarterback Brendan Cornford and running back Josh MacArthur, both of whom who have relished their opportunity to play for the revitalized Red Bomber program.
For Cornford, who came to UNB after a brief stint with the Acadia Axemen last season, the program has been a godsend.
"The one thing that stands out above everything else this year and will be in my memory for the rest of my life is that feeling I had walking out on Chapman field for that first game,'' said Cornford, 19, a graduate of the program at Leo Hayes High. "The goose bumps, the emotion, I had never played in front of a crowd that big before and it was just awesome to be a part of."
Cornford and his teammates know they're in for a battle against a hardnosed Saint John team, but they feel they're capable of surprising the Seawolves.
"We're determined to end this season on a winning note and we think we can," said Cornford. "We respect Saint John but we know if we spread the ball around on offence, establish our run and play as a team and get good defence, we're capable of beating them."
"They beat us twice but without making excuses, we easily could have won both games, so we will just have to go down to Saint John and beat them to prove it," said MacArthur, who graduated from Oromocto High School and is now, at 24, in his final year of eligibility and playing his final game with the Bombers.
"We weren't happy Moncton wasn't able to play us in the semifinal but we can't do anything about that. The fact is that this season has been a really positive experience for all of us and I know I speak for the team when I say that we want to end this year by going out a winner and beating Saint John."
MacArthur and his teammates are in the final by virtue of a scheduling conflict that couldn't be resolved last weekend, forcing the Moncton Raiders to withdraw from the semifinal that had been scheduled for Chapman Field last Saturday.
The Raiders said they couldn't field a team with many of their players and coaches tied up with the provincial high school teams that were playing for a provincial title on the same day in Moncton. The uncertainty of securing game officials on the Sunday also proved to be a stumbling block.
"This has been an incredibly close league all year," said Dollimore. "All three teams were very close and most of the games could have gone either way in almost every case. That was our objective coming in as organizers, to grow the sport at this level in New Brunswick and the region. In that respect, we've succeeded this year.''
Dollimore spoke of the obstacles the league and his team has overcome in this inaugural season, including scheduling issues, practice facilities, class and work conflicts and mainly finding a 'home' for the Red Bombers to lay their hat on a regular basis, especially when it came to practices.
"I think of the game earlier this season that we played in Moncton missing eight starters and then we lose five more in the first half to injury and we're losing pretty bad to top it all off. But you know what, the kids never quit,'' said Dollimore of the Oct. 31 matchup that saw the Raiders prevail 38-28.
"Our kids came back and fought to the bitter end and I think if we had another three minutes on the clock, we win the game,'' said Dollimore. "Even though we lost that game by a touchdown, to me that epitomizes our season and our program this year because we showed great character and never quit.''
Bottom-line, Dollimore said the big accomplishment was bringing the sport back to the campus.
"Whatever our record had been this year it didn't matter as much as getting this program back on its feet,'' he said. "It gives some great kids a chance to make friendships and memories they'll have for the rest of their lives.''