By: Monty Mosher
Marc Loranger isn't one for cheap nostalgia.
It's been many years since a young coach, barely functional in English, came out of Quebec to join the football coaching staff of head coach Jacques Dussault at Mount Allison.
It was 1990 and the Mounties were building a decent club. Loranger was 26 and brought in because he'd work cheap. For no pay, actually.
By 1991, Dussault had gone to the World League of American Football with the Montreal Machine after just two seasons and Loranger was the head coach of a Mount Allison team on the way to the Vanier Cup against Wilfrid Laurier. Mount A would lose 25-18 that day in Toronto.
It was the second Vanier Cup visit for the Mounties, the other in 1984. No Mount A team has been to the national championship game since.
The football landscape in Canada is a small one, where neighbours may move down the road but seldom move out of reach. While Loranger has been gone from Mount Allison as an employee for more than two decades, somehow the Mounties, and the AUS, have caught up to him again.
So it was last Friday when the Bishop's Gaiters, where Loranger has been the defensive coordinator for the past two seasons, paid a visit to Sackville, N.B., and came away with a 32-31 overtime win.
It was the old sod, and sometimes muck, of MacAulay Field in Loranger's day, replaced now by the spiffy artificial surface and fresh bleachers of Alumni Field.
The sentimental view would be that warm memories flooded Loranger in the shadows of the surroundings he called home for better than six years. That would be a stretch.
He's been back at other times. This is his second go-around with the Gaiters. He also worked as an assistant coach with the Sherbrooke Vert et Or. Interlocking play allowed the AUS and Quebec schools to stay connected every year or two.
In truth, it's the people, not the places, that connect for Loranger. Two of his former players were coaching their respective high school teams prior to the Mount A-Bishop's game, a visceral reminder for Loranger of his years in New Brunswick.
"Mount Allison was about the people who got me there and the people I spent time with," Loranger said this week as the Gaiters prepared to welcome the St. Francis Xavier X-Men for Homecoming on Saturday afternoon in Lennoxville, Que.
It is still strange to see Bishop's in the AUS football standings, but growing more familiar all the time.
Bishop's, small by Quebec conference standards, had gone 3-21 in its last three seasons and had become unable to stay in the arms' race with national powers Montreal and Laval.
Most observers saw the Gaiters as a perfect fit for the AUS, where the conference craved a fifth franchise. Bishop's looks and operates more like an AUS football franchise than some of the national big-budget elites. Loranger wondered why the marriage hadn't happened sooner. In fact, when he took the job at Bishop's in 2016, he was told the courtship was well under way.
"I'm pretty happy about that,' he said. "I think it was the right thing to do for the Bishop's football program. I've been thinking that for a long time.
"I think it is the right type of competition for us. It's the type of competition that will allow us to get better."
The change on the field is an obvious one. Bishop's is 1-2 along with St. F.X. and Mount A. Acadia is 2-2 and Saint Mary's 3-0.
It appears the last playoff spots, even home playoff opportunities, will come down to the final weekend, something that was no longer realistic for Bishop's in the Quebec circuit.
There are more subtle changes as well. Loranger believes a Bishop's team in the AUS creates recruiting opportunities across Canada that may not have been available when the team was getting punted around in the RSEQ.
"So I think that's a great benefit to us, and at the same time we are competing against schools that are more similar to us as well."
The years haven't done anything to erode Loranger's memories of his time at Mount A. He'd like to take credit for the 1991 Mounties, but he can't.
"I've got to be humble about it. When you get in a new position, you are coaching somebody else's team to some extent.
"It was still Jacques Dussault's team at that point. He can be proud of what that team did at that point, but I am as well."
The saga ended amid controversy with Loranger's ouster in 1996. A player was suspended due to a doping infraction and Loranger was fired mid-season. John MacNeil finished the year as head coach. It's all part of the public record and Loranger is happy to leave it in the dusty past. The characters from that drama have long left the stage.
"All the memories are about people who did different things and allowed you to be successful, or the people you helped out,' he said.
"The location doesn't matter. But I have good memories of every place I've coached. I've had tough times as well. It's a good reflection of what goes on in your life.