Craig Leger is no stranger to being a lead running back.
Back in his high school days with the Cobequid Cougars, the Salmon River native piled up an unheard of 2,200 yards and 25 touchdowns in nine games, earning provincial MVP and getting recruited by the Saint Mary’s Huskies.
The Huskies, suddenly depleted at his position, are expected to lean on the third-year standout more than ever on Saturday at 1 p.m. when they host the St. Francis Xavier X-Men in the Atlantic University Sport Loney Bowl.
With Devon Jones out of the lineup because of a suspension, and brother Tristan Jones ailing with a shoulder injury, the Huskies’ three-headed monster is down to Leger.
“I think it’s going to be the Craig Leger Show,” predicted Saint Mary’s head coach Steve Sumarah.
The 5-foot-9, 185-pounder was no slouch this season, earning an all-star spot with 491 yards and three touchdowns while handling about 30 per cent of the Huskies’ carries.
Tristan will be a game-time decision, but if he is unable to play, Leger said he’s ready to carry the load.
“I’m just hoping to do my part and help the team win,” Leger said. “I want to do what I can, especially for the guys who could be playing the last game of their careers.”
While the Huskies’ conference-leading ground game will be a big part of their strategy, the X-Men will likely throw a lot, as they have for much of the season. They led the AUS with more than 300 passing yards per game and 11 touchdowns.
“We have to be ready to defend 60 minutes of the air show,” Sumarah said.
The teams split their two matchups this season, and turnovers were the key factor in each outing. The Huskies turned the ball over five times in a 24-19 opening-weekend loss; the X-Men committed eight in a 41-7 thumping on Oct. 23.
“The team that wins the battle of the turnovers is going to win,” said X-Men head coach Gary Waterman.
The Huskies are vying for a third straight AUS crown and ninth in 11 years. The home team has not lost since the AUS introduced the three-team playoff format in 2002.
Both teams know each other intimately.
“They have film on you and there are no secrets,” Sumarah said. “It’s all about execution and intensity.”
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