Josh MacArthur of the University of New Brunswick Fredericton Red Bombers carries the ball with Jerrit Northrup of the UNBSJ Seawolves in pursuit during Atlantic Football League championship game action Saturday at Millidgeville Field. The Bombers downed the Seawolves 3-1 to claim the league’s inaugural title. Lee Maloney of the University of New Brunswick Saint John Seawolves leaves the field while members of the University of New Brunswick Fredericton Red Bombers celebrate the Atlantic Football League’s first title Saturday at Millidgeville Field. The Bombers defeated the regular-season champs 3-1 on a safety and a rouge

Bombers claim AFL's first title
Football: UNB Fredericton downs Saint John in defensive struggle

By Jon MacNeill
Published in the Telegraph-Journal on Monday November 23, 2009
Appeared on Page B6

SAINT JOHN - After 30 years, the University of New Brunswick Fredericton Red Bombers still know what it takes to win a championship.

Struggling against slick field conditions and outstanding defensive efforts on the other side of the ball, the Red Bombers captured the first-ever Atlantic Football League championship Saturday with a 3-1 win over the UNB Saint John Seawolves at Millidgeville Field.

"It's a big piece of history that we get to be a part of," the Bombers Andrew Hubbard said.

"We had a former Red Bomber with us today and to have the traditions blending together feels great."

The star wide receiver tallied more than 130 yards from returns and carries but it was the Bombers' defence who put points up on the board.

As in the squad's two regular-season encounters, the game was decided in the final frame but this time Fredericton prevailed to hand Saint John its only loss of the inaugural campaign.

Early in the fourth quarter, the Seawolves' Tim Jackson attempted to return a punt from his end zone but fumbled it back across the line to give the Bombers a two-point safety.

With less than two minutes left in the game, Jackson was caught in the house by a swarm of Bomber defenders trying to return another punt and the Bombers took a 3-0 lead from the rouge.

Both scoring opportunities came courtesy of Alden Pezerovic's reliable boot.

"Pezerovic kicked a phenomenal game for us," Bombers head coach Mike Dollimore said. "Every punt he had helped us out and took the field position away from Saint John. He strategically placed it where we wanted him to and it was a direct result of his kicking game that we got the points we did."

Points were otherwise hard to come by in a game dominated by solid defensive performances. The first three quarters were relatively uneventful, with each team struggling to sustain drives and failing to get within striking distance.

"It was tough to get the ball going today," Seawolves head coach Dave Grandy said.

"It's harder to click on offense and the conditions were slick out there," added quarterback Jeremy McAulay. "But, no excuses, we just came out kind of flat and couldn't get any momentum going and they shut us down."

The Seawolves notched a rouge with 34 seconds left on the clock after McAulay marched the squad within range using a screen pass to Joel Seale who gained 30 yards.

John Phillips' field goal attempt narrowly missed the uprights on the right side to make it 3-1 for the Bombers.

"We played bend don't break defence at times, especially near the end of the game," Dollimore said. "We were trying to protect against some of their deep passes and we gave up some stuff across the middle, but we were protecting from the goal line up."

The single point came after McAulay fired passes to Seale and Justin Cavan who were both unable to corral the pigskin from their perch in the end zone.

"We had our opportunities near the end of the game to get what we needed and that just didn't happen," Grandy said. "It was there for us and we didn't capitalize."

Immediately before the Bombers notched their safety, Saint John's Chris Reid recovered a fumbled punt return and ran it back for a touchdown. But the major was called back because the Seawolves had too many players on the field, drawing a chorus of disapproval from the estimated 800 fans in attendance on the overcast fall afternoon.

Dollimore said winning the championship was even more rewarding in the company of some former Red Bombers. He played and coached for the squad from 1970 to its final Atlantic Universities Athletics Association season in 1980.

"Our guys played really inspired football," Dollimore said.