Joe Doherty has been on the field with the Saint Mary’s Huskies football team for six years now. But never has the veteran receiver found himself in the spotlight he is under now.
After one red-shirt season and four patient years in the shadows as a backup to hard-working mainstay Ryean Warburton, Doherty has stepped into a starting role in his final tour of duty and is making the most of it, to say the least.
The Ottawa native leads Atlantic University Sport with four touchdown grabs — one more than he’d caught in four previous seasons — and is among the conference leaders with 274 yards on 19 receptions through four games.
“This is a lot more fun, getting in there more,” Doherty admitted after practice at Huskies Stadium on Tuesday. “But it was a learning experience. I’ve got to thank those four years because they helped me get to this point right now.”
Doherty has been a big part of a revitalized Huskies passing attack that went into hibernation last year while transitioning from star Erik Glavic to rookie Jack Creighton. A more experienced Creighton has found a rhythm with Doherty and healthy two-time all-star Carl Hardwick to compile 1,252 passing yards, twice as many as the team had last season at this stage.
Huskies head coach Steve Sumarah said Doherty “raised his game and took the No. 1 job” in training camp, while crediting him for “great hands” and “solid route-running.”
“I approached it as it was my spot to lose,” said Doherty, who has won three AUS titles and played in the 2007 Vanier Cup. “I’ve been here, I know the offence better than anyone — almost as much as coach— and I figured if I played my best and came out hard every day, it would be my spot.”
It should be Doherty’s spot for the rest of the year, according to Sumarah, who said Doherty has been a guy he could “always count on.” That has only been strengthened by the rapport Doherty has developed with Creighton this fall.
“It’s my first year actually getting a chance to show what I’ve got,” Doherty said. “I’m making the best of it.”
The second-place Saint Mary’s Huskies (3-1) will look to keep pace with the first-place St. Francis Xavier X-Men (4-0) when they visit the Mount Allison Mounties (0-4) on Saturday at 7 p.m. The Huskies beat the Mounties 47-18 last Friday.