HALIFAX, NS – STFX’s football team has not lost a game against AUS competition in two years, but both the 2021 and 2022 seasons have ended in a familiar way — a loss in the U SPORTS national championship semifinal.
The X-Men have not won a national bowl game since 1996, and they are not the only AUS team to struggle on the national stage. The last team to win a national bowl game was the 2007 SMU Huskies, and out of the six AUS teams that have won the Vanier Cup, the last came in 2002.
Going into his second season, receiver Zachary Houde and the 2023 X-Men look to end this streak.
“In the regular season, we make mistakes that we can’t afford to do in bigger games,” Houde said. “In the Uteck Bowl, we played 32 great minutes, and then mistakes started to pile up at the end.”
The 6-foot-1 receiver out of Thetford Mines, Que. believes that the team needs to work on keeping the same mindset for all games and approve of that.
“I feel it’s important to never sit on what we already did and always try to do a better job,” Houde says. “In bigger games like this, it can slip away so easily; we can’t afford to lose that sense of urgency. We need to keep that same winning mentality every time we are on the field.”
While Houde feels positive about the last two years, he sees a clear difference coming into the next season, with the group hungry for success and their goal of avenging their previous losses while shedding the poor reputation of the AUS in national bowl games.
For quarterback Silas Fagnan, a lack of continuity and the facts of life in Canadian university sport don’t help the X-Men strive toward their goals.
“Every year you’re coming out of the AUS with a different team; every year you’re playing those eight games that we went undefeated in; it’s not easy to win a game on the national stage,” he said.
“We’re coming out of the AUS undefeated, but we’ve made games close before; the only way we’re going to have a chance on the national stage is if we’re obliterating our opponents at the AUS level.”
Heading into the 2023 AUS and U SPORTS seasons, Fagnan sets the expectations for the X-Men as high as possible.
With only two guys being gone from the roster this year, there’s no reason why the bar can’t be set higher. With the talent we have on this team and the maturity we have [on this team], it’s all the way for us.”
Going into his third year, Fagnan is coming off a year where he led all quarterbacks in touchdowns, passing yards, efficiency, and yards per game. He looks to continue to grow as a teammate this year.
The X-Men are set to start their search for their third AUS title in a row on Aug. 26 against the Bishop’s Gaiters at home, as they eye a shot at another U SPORTS bowl game.
“I’ll be the first one to call myself out on any plays that need to get better and be the first one to raise the bar for themselves,” Fagnan said. “I’m the leader on this team, and I need to lead by example, not only in the way I talk but the way I play on the field.”