MONTREAL (CIS) – McMaster quarterback Asher Hastings found Alberta Golden Bears receiver Tylor Henry for a pair of third-quarter touchdowns to lead the West to a 29-14 win in the 14th annual CIS East-West Bowl at McGill University's Percival Molson Memorial Stadium, Saturday afternoon.
With the victory, the West put an end to a two-game losing skid and now leads the all-time series 8-6 since the inception of the showcase for Canadian Football League prospects in 2003.
Henry, a 5-foot-11, 184-pound speedster from Camrose, Alta., was named offensive MVP for the winners thanks to his 123 yards and two scoring majors on six receptions.
"I'm a little surprised because I didn't practice all week. I had a knee injury and I wasn't even sure I would be able to play," said Henry. "The coaches did a great job all week getting us ready for the game. Coach Nill made a great speech before the game and got the guys fired up."
UBC head coach Blake Nill was at the helm of the West squad, six months after guiding the Thunderbirds to their first Vanier Cup title since 1997 in his first season with the team.
"It's always nice to get the 'W' but the most important thing every year at the East-West Bowl is to provide the players with a great experience overall, and I feel we were able to do that this week," Nill said. "I tip my hat off to Coach Ron Hilaire and his organizing committee from McGill, and to all my colleagues from CUFCA. It was a very productive week."
For the East, offensive MVP honours went to Montreal Carabins running back Sean Thomas-Erlington, who finished with one touchdown and a team-high 93 yards on only nine carries -- including 73 yards in the first half.
"Overall, I'm happy with my performance. I didn't have any expectations going in," said the Montreal native. "I have to give a lot of credit to our offensive line. They created some big holes for me."
Thomas-Erlington's head coach with the Carabins, Danny Maciocia, was at the helm of the East for the second straight year.
"The result is not very important. I feel both teams played solid football, and overall the week was a great learning experience for all involved," said the 2014 Vanier Cup-winning bench boss, who led the East to a 29-21 win in last year's prospects game.
Another Maciocia protégé, kicker Félix Ménard-Brière, got a golden opportunity to shine on Saturday as he was asked to handle kicking and punting duties for both sides due to an injury to Ottawa's Lewis Ward, who was originally selected to the East roster. Ménard-Brière, who hails from Ste-Agathe-des-Monts, Que., punted 18 times overall in the contest and was perfect on four field goal attempts, two for each team.
"It was special to see Félix kick for both teams, that's for sure," said Maciocia. "But I'm happy he got this opportunity to showcase his abilities. He's such an important part of our program."
The East opened the scoring eight minutes and 25 seconds in on a 31-yard field goal by Ménard-Brière. The successful drive included a 20-yard run to the West 41 by Thomas-Erlington.
The West went two-and-out on its next possession but immediately got the ball back thanks to an interception by UBC defensive back Kevin Wiens off of an errant pass from StFX's Dante Djan. Seven plays later, on his second try from the one-yard line, Guelph running back Johnny Augustine punched the ball in to give the West a 7-3 lead with 1:27 remaining in the opening quarter.
Ménard-Brière rounded out the first-quarter scoring on the ensuing kickoff with a 66-yard single for the West.
The East dominated the second frame 9-0 to head into halftime with a 12-8 advantage.
With 3:26 left before the break, Thomas-Erlington scored from two yards out to cap an eight-play, 101-yard drive, including 51 yards on four runs by the Carabins standout. The extra-point was missed however due to a botched snap.
Ménard-Brière added a 16-yard field goal for the East on the final play of the first half.
Back from the intermission, the West needed less than four minutes to take back the lead on a 33-yard TD pass from Hastings to Henry. Hastings completed four passes for 91 yards on the sequence, including a pair to Henry good for 50 yards.
Ménard-Brière made it 16-12 for the West on the ensuing kickoff with a single but the East got two points back moments later thanks to a safety.
The Hastings-Henry duo struck again on the final play of the third stanza to increase the West lead to 23-14. Hastings first connected with Saskatchewan's Mitch Hillis for 38 yards to the East 18, and then found a wide open Henry in the end zone.
The West pushed its advantage to 29-14 thanks to a pair of Ménard-Brière field goals in the first five minutes on the fourth quarter – from 32 and 15 yards out. The first came courtesy of a little trickery as the West opened the final frame with an onside kick, which they recovered at the East 17.
The winning side dominated 472-295 in total yards, including a commanding 372-140 advantage through the air.
Hastings was the most productive of the four quarterbacks who took the field with 237 yards and two TD strikes on 10-of-19 passing. His West teammate Theo Deezar of Manitoba was 11-of-19 for 135 yards and one interception.
For the East, James Roberts of Guelph completed nine of 18 attempts for 73 yards, while Djan was held to 67 yards on 7-of-12 passing.
McMaster's Danny Vandervoort also had six catches for the West for 73 yards. Augustine was the game's top rusher with 99 yards on 14 carries.
Manitoba defensive lineman Evan Foster and Bishop's linebacker Étienne Morin were named defensive MVPs for their respective teams. Foster of Chilliwack, B.C., had three tackles for the West, including two for a loss and one sack, while Morin of Saint-Ludger, Que., had three tackles and a fumble recovery for the East.
Devante Sampson, a defensive back from Mount Allison who suited up for the East, led all players with five solo tackles. Wilfrid Laurier defensive lineman Kwaku Boateng had two sacks for the West.
GAME NOTES: The following players were announced on Friday as "players of the week" by the East-West Bowl coaches: Antony Auclair, tight end/fullback, Laval (East offence); Junior Luke, defensive lineman, Montreal (East defence); Alex Morrison, wide receiver, UBC (West offence); Jalen Price, defensive lineman, Wilfrid Laurier (West defence)... The East-West Bowl showcases – for the most part - CIS players who will be eligible for the following year's CFL Draft... The East team is comprised – for the most part - of student-athletes representing schools from the Atlantic and Quebec conferences, as well as Queen's, Ottawa and Carleton. The West contingent is made up of standouts from Canada West and the remaining OUA universities... McGill was hosting the week-long event for the second straight year. The event had previously been held at Western (2009-2014), McMaster (2008), Laval (2006-2007) and Wilfrid Laurier (2003-2005)... May 14th marks the 142nd anniversary of the first intercollegiate football game of North American style football, when McGill played at Harvard in 1874.