By Charlie Pinkerton, CIS Football Correspondent
With the Loney Bowl less than a month away, the Acadia Axemen (1-4) and Mount Allison Mounties (1-4) meet on the national stage this Saturday.
The homecoming game at Acadia is the final matchup featured in the CIS Game of the Week series on the road to the 52nd ArcelorMittal Dofasco Vanier Cup. While both teams rank at the bottom of the AUS standings, Saturday's game gives the winning team a chance to distance themselves from the other in the AUS playoff hunt.
"It's a huge game," said Dakota Brush, fourth-year Mounties receiver. "Going up against Acadia at their place and at their homecoming and being able to get a win would be huge in our locker room."
Mount Allison and Acadia have already met once this year, a 20-12 victory by the Mounties in Week 6.
With the development of the Mount Allison football program in recent years, the Axemen no longer assume a victory against their out-of-province foes.
"Up until a couple years ago we dominated the rivalry," said Axemen head coach Jeff Cummins. "It wasn't much of a rivalry. Over the last three years (Mount Allison) has been a very formidable team and have been very good. It's created a situation where now it's competitive on both sides and the battle lines have been drawn."
AUS teams have rivalries unlike teams from any other conference in the country. With only four teams in the division, each team is forced to meet twice a year in the regular season.
"We know each other quite well, we recruit a lot of the same kids, it makes it quite an intense situation," Cummins said.
A four-time AUS coach of the year, Cummins, who is originally from Los Angeles, has coached in the conference for 16 years.
Scott Brady, the head coach of the Mounties, has spent a decade of competition against the Axemen, having played for Mount Allison from 2006 to 2009 and serving in various coaching roles for the team since. He recalled a pair of games against Acadia that he said defined the rivalry.
In the 2010 AUS semifinal, Acadia bested Mount Allison in a game that needed four overtimes. Acadia used a fake field goal to set up the eventual game-winning touchdown in that game.
"That's probably the wildest game I've ever been involved in," said Brady. "When you play Acadia it's always a battle."
In the conference semifinal in 2013 Mount Allison didn't find the endzone until there was just over three minutes left in the game. Their only touchdown of the game came on a pick-six that sealed it for the Mounties.
That year, Mount Allison captured their first Jewett Trophy since 1997.
In their head to head matchup earlier this season, the Mounties special teams proved to be crucial in the win. The Mounties sealed the game in the fourth quarter with a blocked punt recovered for a touchdown.
Cummins said he expects that phase of the game to be most important when the teams meet for the second time this weekend.
"They're always trying to create an advantage on special teams," said Cummins. "If we can manage against their block units and their return units I think things will go very positively for us."
Mount Allison will look to overpower Acadia in the trenches, where Brady believes the Mounties have the advantage.
"The expectation going in is that our offensive and defensive lines are going to handle their business along the line of scrimmage," he said.
Acadia hasn't won a game since its first of the season - a 30-1 win at home on Sept. 10 over second-place Saint Mary's. This is the third year in a row that Acadia has hosted Mount Allison for homecoming.
"Every time we go to Acadia it feels like dangerous territory because they always have good fan support," said Brush.
Both of the last two years the Mounties have spoiled Axemen homecoming with a victory. Since 2000, Acadia leads the series 26-9 (not including the playoffs), but the teams have split the last 12 regular season games.
Cummins expects 3500 to 4000 fans to pack Raymond Field Saturday, for what both sides expect to be a close game.
"I expect it to come down to the wire," said Brady. "I think it's going to be a close football game all the way through."
"People are going to see a good brand of football, and a great game day experience here at Acadia," said Cummins.
"If we have the possibility to go there and play our game and push the tempo and do things that we want to do, I think that its going to make them uneasy heading into the two final games," said Brush.
"It's a momentum game."