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Island Mariners confident heading into MFL semifinal with Moncton Mustangs

Island Mariners head coach Ryan Dempsey, left, and running back Richard Lush talk strategy at a recent practice. The Mariners face the Moncton Mustangs in one of two Maritime Football League semifinals on Saturday.
Island Mariners head coach Ryan Dempsey, left, and running back Richard Lush talk strategy at a recent practice. The Mariners face the Moncton Mustangs in one of two Maritime Football League semifinals on Saturday. - Charles Reid

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – Forgive the Island Mariners if the squad is confident going into Saturday’s playoff game with the Moncton Mustangs, but maybe it’s well-earned.

After all, the Mariners (1-5) have played the Maritime Football League’s best team and defending champ more or less even despite losing both regular season contests, a 43-30 loss last month and a 66-56 defeat last weekend to wrap the regular season.

The semifinal game goes at 4 p.m. in Moncton and Mariners running back Richard Lush is ready and waiting for the Mustangs (5-0).

“It’s bizarre. I can’t really understand it, but we always play Moncton really well. Maybe we’re more confident because they’re the champs. I think in that last game we only punted once and we had a chance to close the gap (late in the game) but we fumbled at the one-yard line,” said Lush, who doubles as Mariners general manager. “Moncton’s running game is fantastic. It’s very technical. Everyone knows what they’re doing and they have two mammoth guards that set the edge.”

Last weekend the Mariners offence exploded for 56 points, thanks to quarterback Brennan Davis’ six touchdown passes. He also ran one in as did Cole Brydges, who added two TD catches.

Neither defence had much luck stopping the other team’s offence and the Mariners got things to 59-56 late in the fourth quarter until Moncton QB Dan Comfort ran in a three-yard TD sealing the game.

But the Mariners have made steady progress during the season and head coach Ryan Dempsey said his team is prepared for what’s to come on Saturday.

“We have to make sure we handle things on special teams. We gave up two special teams touchdowns to Moncton (last weekend) and we get a stop when we need it and this is different conversation,” he said. “We’ve got to shut down their run. Moncton has one running play and they execute it very well. We just have to buckle down and stop that running game.”

The other semi has the Halifax Harbour Hawks travelling to Saint John, N.B., to play the Wanderers. The semifinal winners earn a berth in the MacIntyre Cup final June 23.

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