The Holland College Hurricanes came back after being down 12 points to defeat the UNB Saint John Seawolves 31-15 in the Atlantic Football League Championship.
It was a rematch of last year’s AFL championship, and once again, the Hurricanes came out on top, giving them back-to-back Moosehead Cup victories and a perfect 8-0 record on the season.
The Hurricanes were behind 15-3 at halftime, but receiver Jaylen McRae ran back the second half’s opening kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown, sparking the comeback.
Holland College scored 28 unanswered points in the second half, including a 32-yard reception and a five-yard touchdown run from McRae.
McRae said he knew the game was on the line and he needed to make some big plays.
“I just knew my brothers and I needed to come together. We just needed that reality check in the first half. When I was scoring those touchdowns, I kept thinking ‘I’ve got to protect this Moosehead. It’s our Moosehead.' We didn’t want to give it back to Saint John.”
The Seawolves started out strong. Running back Rob Fox put the first points on the board six minutes into the game with a two-yard touchdown run.
The Hurricanes edged closer in the second quarter after a Jay Dearborn field goal, making the score 7-3.
Big plays by Seawolves running back Andrew Healy and receiver Rane Griffin set up a 20-yard touchdown reception by Trevor Harrison.
With 12 seconds left to go in the half, Seawolves kicker Dan Duplessis’s kick sailed into the end zone, giving them a 15-3 lead.
Hurricanes quarterback Christian Hackney said he tried to stay positive when they were behind.
“As a quarterback I need to lead by example, so I didn’t put my head down. I rallied the guys at halftime in the locker room. I told them we weren’t out of this, and we had been there before. This was our championship to lose, and the only team who could beat us was Holland College.”
McRae’s explosive kickoff return sent the crowd into a frenzy and shifted the momentum in the Hurricanes’ favour.
They recovered a UNBSJ fumble near the end of the third quarter and running back Layton Aitken scored on a 20-yard run, putting Holland College in the lead 18-15.
On the next possession, Holland College recovered a blocked kick, setting up a 32-yard touchdown reception by McRae. Midway through the fourth quarter, he punched in a five-yard score to put the game away for the Hurricanes.
This was Andrew Hickey’s first championship win as the ‘Canes’ head coach. He was an offensive coordinator when the team won the title last year.
“It means a lot to me. It was a team effort for all the coaching staff and they were a huge help all around. It was a great year,” he said.