Stretching it out: David Carr, right, of the Fredericton-UNB Red Bombers stretches out to the max in pursuit of the ball during Saturday's inaugural game in the newly formed Atlantic Football League at Chapman Field. Tim Jackson (in black) of UNBSJ Seawolves is poised to make the catch but Carr's effort prevents that. The Seawolves won the game 16-14 on a last minute field goal by John Phillips from 29 yards out. The game marked the return of football to the UNB campus for the first time in 30 years.

Phillips screws up storybook ending

By Chris Fox
Published in the Daily Gleaner on Monday September 28, 2009
Appeared on Page B1

The Fredericton-UNB Red Bombers seemed to have John Phillips's number all night, unless, of course, you don't count the final minute.

Phillips, the slotback and kicker for the UNBSJ Seawolves, overcame two blocked punts and a blocked extra-point attempt, to kick a game-winning 29-yard field goal with less than a minute left on the clock at Chapman Field Saturday night.

As a result the Seawolves won the first game in the newly-created Atlantic Football League by a score of 16-14 and Phillips became the unlikely hero.

"We haven't had the chance to polish things and the things we needed to do tonight to finesse our offense or our defence we just weren't able to do," said Red Bombers head coach Mike Dollimore.

"To see the offence make the advances that it did a couple of times was really rewarding, though and I do think we have a lot of potential here."

About 1,500 fans turned out for what was the first university football game contested at UNB since the original Bombers' team was disbanded nearly 30 years ago. Many of the ex-Bombers were on hand to take in Saturday's tilt including new UNB president Eddy Campbell who delivered the ceremonial opening kickoff.

Things got of to a slow start with both teams exchanging three and outs, but minutes into the second quarter, Justin Cavan of the Seawolves returned a Red Bombers punt 40 yards for a touchdown and the atmosphere turned electric.

Not to be outdone, UNB quarterback Brendan Cornford engineered a 50-yard drive shortly thereafter that was capped off with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Andrew Hubbard, alone in the corner of the end zone. Hubbard had set up the score by catching a 30-yard pass through double coverage three plays prior.

Hubbard in fact, was a fairly busy man on the night, also seeing action as a running back on several reverses.

"He (Hubbard) is a impact player for sure and we were able to hit him early, but of course they doubled up on him," said Dollimore. "When you have players like that, they will shift over and double team him and it makes it hard, but Andrew is the kind of guy who can break away from some of that stuff."

After UNB got the score, the teams battled back and forth for most of the quarter, but neither side could put points on the board. With 20 seconds left before half, the Seawolves broke through when Joe Crawford aired out a 30-yard pass to a shockingly open Ryan Morris, who reeled it in for the touchdown.

With much of their momentum seemingly sucked out of them, the Red Bombers struggled to even get a first down for the third quarter and most of the fourth. Then Cornford got hot. He threw five straight completions - three of them were to Hubbard - and took the Red Bombers 55 yards in about four minutes. Josh MacArthur, who had a relatively quiet night on the ground otherwise, then rumbled in from two yards out to put the Red Bombers up by one point with less than five minutes left.

At the time, it seemed like the winning score, but Seawolves' quarterback Joe Crawford had other ideas. He threw first down passes to Joel Saele and Justin Cavan to set up Phillips for the game-winning field goal.

After the game MacArthur, who played football at Oromocto High School, said win or lose, getting to be on the field for the Atlantic Football League's first ever game was a thrill.

"I wished we could have pulled out the W tonight, but it was great to be a part of," he said. "Guys have been trying to get this up and running for years and it was just great and I loved the crowd."

UNB's next action will come on Friday, Oct. 16 when the Moncton Raiders come to town. Kick off is set for 7 p.m. at Chapman Field.