Photo Credit Nic Latulippe
By Casey Dulson, U Sports Correspondent
Over the last two seasons, the StFX X-Men have become an AUS football powerhouse. For the second straight year, they won the AUS championship, building off their victory from last season, their first since 1996.
For the last eight years, the X-Men have been led by head coach, Gary Waterman. The program has gone from a 1-7 record six years ago to 7-1 this season.
"If you want to have continued success, you need to have recruiting structure where you can recruit the right type of student athletes who will stick around for the long haul and commit to the process," Waterman said.
Quarterback Tivon Cook has seen how the X-Men have improved. The fifth-year pivot believes that the change in culture is what makes this year's team different.
"The team's success has come from the culture change that we have experienced," Cook said. "We now have the belief this year more than any that we can win any game."
For Waterman, the success that the X-Men have had is extra sweet as he was a three-time AUS all-star with the program from 1988-1992 as a running back and defensive back.
"Anytime, you can have success in U Sports is always good, if you can do it at your alma-matter, it's special," Waterman said.
The X-Men averaged 37.4 points per game (5th in U Sports) and 484.5 yards per game (eighth in U Sports). Cook was fifth in the nation in passing, with 2,537 yards and threw for 21 touchdowns. He averaged 317.1 yards per game and completed 174 of his 251 attempts. Both of these are now school records. Cook will go down as one of the AUS all-time great as he wraps up his career with 6,943 yards and 47 touchdowns. Only two AUS quarterbacks have passed for more yards than him - Acadia's Larry Jusdanis with 8,766 yards and Saint-Mary's Chris Flynn with 7,292 yards.
"It has been an amazing experience," Cook said. "Coming in as a walk-on, not many people expected much from me but with help of my coaches and teammates and hardwork over the years, it has helped me get to this point."
Another standout is third-year running back, Jordan Socholotiuk, who became the first AUS running back to have a 1000-yard season since 2007. He rushed for 1,056 yards and had five touchdowns this year in eight games.
The X-Men are looking to advance to their third ever Vanier Cup. Their last appearance was back in 1996 where they lost to 31-12 to the Saskatchewan Huskies. Their other Vanier Cup appearance came in 1966 where they won 40-14 over Waterloo Lutheran University, now known as Wilfirid Laurier.
"It would be exciting for the school and for the city of Antigonish," Waterman said. "It would be a great accomplishment if we get there and win it."