WOLFVILLE, N.S. — Days after their spot in the U Sports football final four was lost in a court case, the Acadia Axemen are once again heading to the Uteck Bowl.
Garvin Cius picked off a Kaleb Scott pass in the end zone on the final play of the game and the Axemen defeated the Saint Mary's Huskies 45-38 in overtime in a thrilling Loney Bowl on Tuesday.
Axemen quarterback Cody Cluett had rushed for a one-yard touchdown minutes earlier to give Acadia the lead.
Acadia now has the daunting task of hosting the Ontario champion Western Mustangs on short rest in the Uteck Bowl on Saturday, with the winner advancing to the Vanier Cup championship game Nov. 25 in Hamilton.
Tuesday's game was almost as wild as the legal mess that led to the Loney Bowl being played three days after it was originally scheduled.
Atlantic University Sport (AUS), the governing body for university athletics in Atlantic Canada, cancelled the game last week and awarded the championship to Acadia. But after a whirlwind hearing over the weekend, Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Deborah Smith ruled on Sunday that the game should go ahead.
AUS had initially disqualified Saint Mary's after determining that Archelaus Jack, a wide receiver with the Huskies, was ineligible to compete in a university football league because he was previously on the practice roster of the CFL's Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Despite being in limbo during the court proceedings, players on both sides came out firing on Tuesday.
The Huskies took a 17-6 lead late in the second quarter on a pair of touchdowns from Liam O'Brien. But the Axemen scored a safety and a field goal in the final 90 seconds of the half to cut the Huskies' lead to 17-11 heading into the half.
Acadia started the third quarter with a 32-year touchdown pass from Cluett to Cordell Hastings to take an 18-17 lead, then went up by four after a Jarett Saumure field goal.
O'Brien scored his third touchdown of the day to put Saint Mary's back in front, but Acadia receiver Eugene McMinns reeled in a 44-yard Cluett pass to put the hosts up 28-24 heading into the final quarter.
Saint Mary's kicker Brian Hope opened the fourth quarter with a field goal, but missed on a field goal that tied the game and gave Acadia the ball back with 5:22 remaining.
Cluett's one-yard touchdown with 1:36 left appeared to put the hosts in the driver's seat, but Saint Mary's drove the ball 80 years in 74 seconds, ending in a Scott one-yard run to force overtime.
Hope and Saumure exchanged field goals in overtime to set up the final sequence of plays.
The Canadian Press