The UNB Red Bombers clinched home-field advantage for the Atlantic Football League semifinals with a 14-0 win over the Holland College Hurricanes on Saturday afternoon.
The two teams were tied for second-place heading into the contest.
“This is huge for us,” said Red Bombers head coach Dan McCullough. “There were a lot of long faces this morning getting up to come here. We didn’t want to make this road trip again.”
Similar to the Week 2 matchup in Fredericton, N.B., UNB’s ground game paid dividends, as the running back tandem of Turner Sturgeon and Jesse Hazell pounded the football down the field, gathering yards in bunches.
“This has been our philosophy all season,” McCullough said. “These guys do it for us every game.”
After a scoreless first quarter, the Red Bombers’ defence forced two safeties and held a 4-0 lead at halftime.
The Hurricanes offence laboured throughout the game, resulting in several missed opportunities. Missed catches, a struggling aerial attack and a stalled run game contributed to the shutout loss.
“Balls should have been caught today,” said head coach Ross Young. “We made some good throws today but we just didn’t execute.”
Young said his team has no choice but to bounce back when they face those same Red Bombers in two weeks time in the first round of the playoffs.
“Offensively, we’ll stick to the same game plan. Sometimes it’s a slow process, but we’re getting there.”
Despite surrendering more than 200 yards rushing, Holland College’s defence kept them in the game. Fatigue eventually set in though, as a Hazell five-yard touchdown run extended UNB’s lead to 11-0 heading into the final quarter.
“We tightened our defence from a week ago and I thought they played a good game as a unit,” Young said.
The Red Bombers added a field goal in the fourth quarter to cap off the scoring.
The Hurricanes (2-3) will face the undefeated Dalhousie Tigers in the final game of the regular season on Saturday at UPEI Alumni Canada Games Place. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.