By: Dwayne Tingley
Five years ago, Shelton Williams envisioned life as an Acadia Axeman.
Realty, it turns out, has surpassed his dreams.
"It's everything I ever hoped for and more," said the six-foot-four, 270-pound offensive lineman.
"The team, the campus and the community have been great and just what I was looking for," he added. "I have loved every minute of being at Acadia."
To top it off, the Axemen have a chance to win the AUS football conference championship on Saturday, when they host the Bishop's Gaiters in the Subway AUS Loney Bowl, presented by Keep It Social. Game time is 2 p.m. at Raymond Field in Wolfville, N.S.
"We respect our opponent and we know it's going to be a tough game, but we are hungry to win at home and this would be a great way to continue our season," Williams said.
The winner of the Loney Bowl will advance to host the U SPORTS Uteck Bowl against the champion of the RSEQ conference in the national semifinal on Saturday, Nov. 16.
The Axemen locked up first place in the AUS with an 8-0 record during the regular season to earn a first-round playoff bye. They defeated the Gaiters 53-13 on Aug. 24 in Wolfville and 24-12 on Sept. 28 in Lennoxville, Que.
"We had a very good season, but we are not taking anything for granted," said Williams, a 24-year-old native of Nassau, Bahamas.
"They have a very good team and they had a good game against Mount Allison (in the semifinal) so we know they are going to be ready for us," he continued. "We just have to keep playing our game of football. Both teams will be ready for a physical game."
The Axemen outscored their opponents 309-165 this season. They led the conference in scoring, touchdowns with 37, and offensive yards (3,776).
Williams said the Axemen work hard on and off the practice field every day. However, he cited team unity for their success.
"From Day 1 of training camp, we knew that we all started the season with the goal of winning a championship," the lineman said. "We became close right away.
"We support each other, and we keep a positive environment all of the time. We know that we have each other's back. If someone has a bad day, there are always guys on the team to pick you up.
"That kind of attitude comes from the coaches, the campus and our community. It's like a big family that supports each other."
Williams, a sociology major who hopes to play professionally after graduation, came to Canada to play football at Holland College in Charlottetown. He played a little football in a loosely organized league in the Bahamas, but most of his experience came in flag football.
After one year at Holland College, he transferred to Acadia and his dreams have been coming true ever since.
Meanwhile, the Gaiters placed second in the regular season standings with a 4-4 record. They were outscored 210-150, but their defence impressed with a conference-high 24 sacks.
AUS all-star linebacker Louve Moussenguet, who led the conference in sacks (5.5) and tackles for a loss (8.5), said the Gaiters enter the game with confidence.
"We know that Acadia has a good team and they are expected to win, but we are not going to change our recipe," said the 23-year-old business student from St-Jerome, Que.
"We work hard and keep our focus," he added. "We watch films, listen to our coaches and stick to the recipe. We're not going to change things now. It's time to think about our game plan and not what the other team is doing."
Jeff Cummins has guided the Axemen to five Atlantic championships during his 17 seasons at Acadia. He was named AUS Coach of the Year for the sixth time in his career this week, and he captured U SPORTS national coach of the year honours in 2017 and 2011.
"Acadia is a sound football team," said Gaiters head coach Cherif Nicolas. "They are well-coached and we're looking forward to the challenge of playing them."
Coach Nicolas, for his part, led a Bishop's squad that won just one game in their first two seasons in the AUS conference, to a second-place finish this season. The Gaiters earned hosting rights to AUS playoffs semifinal game last weekend, marking the team's first appearance in a postseason game since 1994.
The Gaiters came away with a 28-18 win over the Mount Allison Mounties to advance to tomorrow's championship final.
Moussenguet said the Gaiters are putting a lot of pressure on themselves to play their best game of the season.
"We know what we can do when we play our best," he said. "We can win this game and we can surprise a lot of people."