What to expect
This game has talented offensive lineman, big-armed quarterbacks and a plethora of receiving talent relative to other East-West Bowl games which should make for a high-scoring affair.
Even when all these ingredients exist, sometimes there is still a level of miscommunication born from newly-minted teammates being thrown into a huddle together. But not this year.
Quarterbacks like Western’s Chris Merchant and UBC’s Michael O’Connor have been taking extra time in meeting rooms and on field with receivers to gain an understanding of each other. It would be a shock if it doesn’t turn into an air show in Quebec City Saturday.
The one way that could be prevented is if the extremely talented pass rushers - especially on Team East - find a way to wreck havoc. Expect Team West to begin with plenty of quick passes Saturday, allowing their lineman to feel out the dominant Laval-led pass rush.
Speaking of Laval
Rouge et Or bench boss Glen Constantin has yet another in an endless crop of talented players suiting up in the 2018 U SPORTS Valero East-West Bowl. Two names amongst the group that stick out are defensive end Mathieu Betts and receiver Alexandre Savard.
Savard is a physical freak. He measured in at the combine this week at nearly 6-foot-6, 248 pounds while running the 40-yard dash in 4.84 seconds, jumping 34.5 inches and benching 225 pounds 26 times.
Here is the scary part for the Team West defence: He can run, he understands route running and will even get a couple of hand-offs Saturday.
While Savard certainly looks the part, his Rouge et Or teammate Mathieu Betts more than plays the part of a hell-raising defensive end. Betts has a quick first step and energy to burn. He has consistently dazzled throughout the week including one outside-in move in a team session Thursday afternoon that left his Team East brethren laughing and wincing all at once due to the simultaneous violence and ease of his movements before getting to the quarterback untouched.
Perhaps the best off-field moment of Friday was in a special teams meeting led by Acadia coaches Jeff Cummins and Dan McNally - which was incredibly thorough in approach and attention to detail - in which Cummins asked what number Betts was to place him on the special teams depth chart.
Cherif Nicholas, Team East head coach from Bishop’s yelled across the room, “Sure, like you don’t know what number he is,” to which Cummins shrugged and smiled while looking directly at Betts stating “I don’t have to play against him during the year, I don’t care what number he is!”
Cummins of course, like everyone else at the 2018 East-West Bowl knows Betts’ number and told me after the meeting he knew Betts would get a laugh out of being downplayed with a quick meeting room jab in a week filled with so much praise.
“He has a great sense of humour and way about him,” said the Acadia bench boss.
At practice Friday, Team West coaches got into a discussion about matchups. In a game of fantasy football they started wondering where to put receivers to get the best matchups and who could cover the speediest receiver in Quebec City this week.
At one point, a Team West defensive coach jokingly tapped an offensive coach on the arm and inquired about the availability of UBC receiver Travel Pinto to play defensive back if StFX X-men pass catcher Kaion Julien-Grant starts to run wild through the Team West secondary Saturday.
“Just let me have him for a couple plays, I’ll just tell him to flip his hips and run with Kaion. He might be the only one who can keep up with him (Grant)”.
While Pinto and Grant have helped themselves this week, also keep an eye on Chris Osei-Kusi of Queen’s, Ottawa’s Kalem Beaver and Laurier’s Kurleigh Gittens Jr., as receivers who could challenge East-West bowl records Saturday if the offences start to roll.
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