Stopping the run: Hurricanes prepare for semifinal battle against Red Bombers

Turner Sturgeon and Jesse Hazell are two names the Hurricanes would rather forget about. But in order to advance to the Atlantic Football League (AFL) finals, Holland College will have to stop UNB’s two-headed monster at running back.

“The big challenge is to shut down 22 (Sturgeon) and 10 (Hazell) and force UNB to go to the air,” said Hurricanes head coach Ross Young. “If we can do that, we’ll give ourselves a chance.”

That’s the scenario the Hurricanes face heading into semifinal action this Saturday when they square off against the University of New Brunswick Red Bombers.

“We’re feeling good,” Young said. “We played well on their turf last time, so we’re expecting nothing short of our best.”

This will be the third time the teams have met this season with UNB claiming the first two games. In the first duel, the Red Bombers erased a 14-point third quarter deficit to defeat the Hurricanes 27-21 in overtime. UNB then shutout Holland College 14-0 in a Week 5 matchup on October 15. In those games, Red Bomber running backs consistently attacked the Hurricanes’ defence, combining for more than 300 yards rushing.

“In order to stop the run, we have to get to them at the line of scrimmage,” Young said. “If they get a step on us and find an open gap it will be hard to beat them.”

Despite the winless record against them, the Hurricanes are eager to get back on the field to defend their title.

“The guys are excited. They want another shot at UNB,” Young said.

During the season, the Hurricanes (2-4) ranked third on offence, averaging 9.8 points a game, while their defence allowed 22.5. On the other side, the Red Bombers (4-2) placed second, scoring 16.3 points per game, while giving up only 14.3.

“There’s no panic with this team,” the coach said. “Every team makes the playoffs. All we have to do is put together two strong games.”

Despite what the numbers might suggest, the Hurricanes can relate back to history for some inspiration. In 2013, the third place Hurricanes – who sported a 1-4-1 record – pulled off upsets against both the Dalhousie Tigers and UNB Saint John Seawolves to capture the college’s second championship.

“They were going through a lot that particular year,” Young said. “Faced with adversity they were able to pull off an upset. We’d like to repeat that.”

The Red Bombers will host Holland College in the semifinal game on October 29 at the BMO Centre. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. The other semifinal game features the 6-0 Dalhousie Tigers hosting the 0-6 UNB Saint John Seawolves. Both games will be webcast on Bell-Aliant TV1.