Did it just get a lot more cerebral in here? Yep, that must mean we're up to the Mount Allison Mounties.
In '06: 2-5 regular season, lost 16-6 to Acadia in conference semi-final
Players to watch: QB Kelly Hughes, WR Gary Ross, OT Zac Macaulay, OT Gaetan Richard, LB Jerome Downey, LB Matt Harding, DE Scott Sheffer
Coach: Steve Lalonde (3rd season)
Co-ordinators: Lalonde (offensive), Peter Estabrooks (defensive), Kelly Jeffrey (special teams)
Last league title: 1997
Big ones: Sept. 8 vs. Acadia (at Halifax), Oct. 6 vs. Acadia
On the web: mta.ca/football
Strengths: Hughes and Ross, each entering their second season, give Mount A one of the best passer-receiver combos in the country. Mount A is set up to play shootout football.
Mountains to climb, rivers to cross... The defence gave up far and away the most yards in the Atlantic last season even with the considerable improvements it made over the nightmarish past few seasons. Mount A will probably have better but younger talent at many positions, which means it could be a year away from making a serious run in the conference.
Mount A will probably have to play its trump card, throwing first and running maybe later. Hughes and Ross, as noted, make a nice combo, while Jon Dyer and Adam Molnar (formerly of Holy Cross in the NCAA) are also expected to be the QB's main targets. The offensive line returns the centre and both tackles. The rule of thumb with the O-line is the players always improve the longer they're together.
Hughes might have to be his own running game. Leading rushers T.J. Williams and Colin Weldon are not back.
It's been boys against men in the tackle box for Mount A for a long time and that figure of 501 yards allowed per game last season is really eye-popping when you consider the schedule included two struggling offensive teams, Bishop's and St. FX.
Matt Harding sat out last season, so his return will help in the short run. In the long run, LaLonde has focused on improving the defensive backfield, both in quality and quantity. The hope from Mount A is that projected starting corners Bradley Daye and Jermaine Oram will play well enough that Mount A can apply more pressure.
Placekicker Euan Crisp, from Toronto-area powerhouse Northern Secondary, was a considered a big recruiting coup when he signed on at Mount A before last season. He went 8-for-13 with a long of 42 yards and might also take on the punting duties, although Olivier Eddie is also in the mix. Mount A's lack of depth beyond the first name on the depth chart has hurt the coverage and return teams. Along with catching the ball, Ross can also be a return man.
The buzz originating out of Sackville, New Brunswick is so persistent it could keep the two official siblings of Out of Left Field currently based in Saint John from getting down to a nice, restful sleep at night.
It would be a fantastic sports story if Mount A goes from being outscored 379-23 in 2005 to playing in the Loney Bowl (the conference final) two years later. It played Acadia tough in last season's semi-final and might have had a shot at sticking the dagger if a couple of long passes had been caught.
Mount A still faces questions about long-term competitiveness that other small Eastern Canada schools such as Bishop's and St. FX are facing, but it's got a glimmer of hope for the first time in several seasons. A 3-5 finish -- sweep X, split with Acadia or beat Bishop's in the interlock -- seems like the safe call.
That's all for now. Send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.