Presenting: the St. Francis Xavier X-Men.
In '06: 2-5, lost to Saint Mary's 24-6 in conference semi-final
Players to watch: DE Yahia Dalloul, CB Jonathan Hood, RB Tyler Kirby, TE Jeremy Marchand, DB Steve McCart, QB Corbin Sharun
Coach: John Bloomfield (4th season)
Co-ordinators: Chris Bertoia (offensive) Gary Waterman (defensive)
Last league title: 1996
Big ones: Sept. 22 at Mount Allison, Sept. 29 vs. Laval, Oct. 26 at Acadia
On the web: xmenfootball.ca
Strengths: X quietly finished seventh in the country in total defence last season; it's lost D-lineman Adam Kania and D-back Travis Noel but most of the proven players seem to be on this side of the ball.
Mountains to climb, rivers to cross... The two touchdown threats, slotback Bryan Pozzobon and tailback Marvin McCooty, have to be replaced and Sharun is a first-time starting QB. The X-Men's issues, though, go beyond some turnover at the skill positions.
There's nowhere to go but up, that's the positive spin. X finished 25th of 27 teams in the CIS in total offence and scored just one touchdown across the final six games of last season. Sharun is opening the season at QB after being the X's relief pitcher, so to speak, during its second-half struggles in 2006.
Marchand (400 yards on 24 catches in '06) is a 'tweener who can play tight end (a position almost extinct in Canadian ball), a little fullback and create matchup problems for linebackers and DBs. Kirby and James Green return at tailback, and 230-pounder James Cochrane, who played for some top junior teams with the Ottawa Sooners, has joined the program.
Bloomfield told the Halifax Herald the other day the D-line could be the "true strength" of the team. It's hard to see why not with Dalloul and Dave Skillen (whose brother John is a starting linebacker) at the ends, plus intriguing newcomer Jon Emminger, a D-tackle from Tampa, Florida. Hood and McCart are fourth-year players who were part of the modicum of success X enjoyed in 2005, when it lost to Acadia in the conference final.
Kyle Chisholm, who's bounced between a couple programs, is taking over the kicking duties for the X-Men, replacing all-star Kyle Henderson.
X is fighting the current in CIS football. In the summer, Bloomfield sent out a newsletter (as many coaches do) reminding fans and grads to remember St. FX''s program "is unique among CIS football schools in that the bulk of our funding of this program comes from our alumni and not from private 'ownership' and/or corporate sponsorships/donations." You can see how it becomes a double-edged sword for one of Canada's great schools. It needs to win to get the money donated to football, but it's hard to win without money coming in. Meantime, as a school in a smaller community, there's less access to those corporate dollars and a multinational looking to create brand awareness is more likely to hit up a larger, urban campus. That's not meant in a mean sense, it's just the times we're in.
The X name does carry a long way and the school has an awesome sports tradition and school spirit, but games are played in the present. They look like the odd team out in the Atlantic this season, but they'll be heard from during the hockey/basketball season.
That's all for now. Send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.