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Montreal Carabins QB Senecal captures Hec Crighton Trophy

Jonathan Senecal Montreal Carabins Jonathan Senecal - The Canadian Press

KINGSTON, Ont. — A historic first for Jonathan Senecal.

The Montreal Carabins quarterback captured the Hec Crighton Trophy at U Sport football's awards banquet Thursday night. The honour is presented annually to Canadian university football's outstanding player.

The six-foot, 200-pound Senecal became the first Carabin to capture the award.

"It's a great honour," Senecal said. "I don't really care about awards, I'm not going to lie … but it is the first in Carabins history and I'm very happy about that."

Senecal, 24, of Mirabel, Que., led the RSEQ in passing, completing 160-of-230 passes (69.6 per cent) for 2,215 yards with 15 touchdowns and just four interceptions. The third-year business administration student also finished fourth in rushing with a school-record 394 yards on 34 carries (11.6-yard average) and six touchdowns.

Senecal led Montreal to a 7-1 regular-season record. The Carabins face the University of British Columbia in the Vanier Cup on Saturday afternoon at Richardson Stadium.

"It (Hec Crighton) is nothing compared to the Vanier Cup," Senecal said. "I'm very happy to get this award, it means I'm doing something great.

"We'll just have to prove Saturday that we're the best team."

The other award winners include UBC's Theo Benedet (J.P. Metras, outstanding down lineman), Montreal's Harold Miessan (President's Trophy, top standup lineman). Laval's Justin Cloutier (Peter Gorman Trophy, top rookie), Manitoba's Mark Mauhaus (Russ Jackson, excellence in football, academics and community service) and Alberta's Chris Morris (Frank Tindall Trophy, coach of the year).

The six-foot-seven, 305-pound Benedet earned the J.P. Metras Trophy for a second straight year, becoming the first offensive lineman to do so and just the third player overall. Laval defensive ends Mathieu Betts and Arnaud Gascon-Nadon were the others.

Benedet, of North Vancouver, B.C., was Canada West's top lineman for a second straight season. The fourth-year arts student was a big part of UBC's conference-leading offence and last year participated in the East-West Shrine Bowl.

"It's just so nice to be able to represent my teammates in terms of success," he said. "When you play offensive line, the success of the unit only happens if all five are moving as one so it's really a credit to the four other guys next to me.

"Some of the people who've won this award before me, like (retired NFL guard) Laurent Duvernay-Tardif are huge inspirations of mine."

Miessan, a six-foot, 201-pound linebacker, registered a team-high 36 tackles (three for loss). The 24-year-old Montreal native, who's a third-year industrial design student, added a sack, fumble recovery and two interceptions for the Carabins.

And like Senecal, Miessan's eye remains on the bigger prize.

"It's nice to be recognized but I'm here for the collective goal … the Vanier Cup," Miessan said. "The way I see it, if you don't win it the other stuff really doesn't mean anything."

Morris guided the Alberta Golden Bears to a 6-2 mark and second-place finish in Canada West. It was the school's first winning record since 2005.

The former CFL offensive lineman — and three-time Grey Cup champion — has now led Alberta to playoff appearances in three of the last four years.

"It's quite an honour," Morris said. "I just have so much respect for the other coaches that are in U Sports, it's an incredible group of people who're doing the job I'm blessed to do.

"The 2024 version of our team is going to be a strong one I think we have a really good group of kids, a really good staff and we should be strong going forward but every year is independent."

Cloutier, 20, of Quebec City, recorded 28.5 tackles (22 solo) in seven-regular-season games for Laval. The six-foot-one, 215-pound linebacker also had a sack in becoming the fourth Rouge et Or player to win the award after Mathieu Betts (2015), Hugo Richard (2014) and Jean-Frederic Tremblay (2000).

Rauhaus, a six-foot, 285-pound offensive lineman at Manitoba, was honoured for his on-field play and dedication off it. This year alone, the Winnipeg native was selected to the President Student Leadership Program as well as being voted by his peers to be on the UMAC executive as the Director of Bisons Against Bullying.

Senecal and Miessan were among eight Carabins named to the first-team All-Canadian squad. The others included guard Alassane Diouf, defensive tackle Christopher Fontenard, defensive end Jeremiah Ojo, defensive back Bruno Lagace, cornerback Kaylyn St- Cyr and rush/cover man Charles-Elliot Boulianne.

The Western Mustangs had three players named to the team, receiver Savaughn Magnaye-Jones, tackle Erik Andersen and safety Jackson Findlay.

Benedet and Lucas Robertson (utility player) were the two Thunderbirds named to the squad.

Alberta (running back Mathew Peterson, centre Daniel Shin), Laurier (receiver Ethan Jordan, linebacker Ife Onyemenam), Saskatchewan (linebacker Nick Wiebe, cornerback Katley Joseph), Queen's (running back Jared Chisari, defensive tackle Darien Newell) and Manitoba (receiver AK Gassama, guard Giordano Vaccaro) also had two players named.

Defensive end Tyson Hergott (Waterloo), defensive back Eric Cumberbatch (Ottawa), receiver Darius Simmons (McGill), punter Aldo Galvan (Regina), kicker Ben Hadley (St. Francis Xavier) and returner Javonni Cunningham (Windsor) were also selected.

The rush/cover and utility (fullback/tight end/H-back) designations were both added this year.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 23, 2023.