Written by Kennedy Harvey, Sports Information Assistant
Photo by Kenny MacDonald
The city of Ottawa is all football this weekend, as the OUA quarterfinal playoff game is set to take place on Saturday, October 29, between rivals Carleton and the University of Ottawa. Both teams finished the regular season with a 6-2 record, but Carleton’s win against uOttawa in Week 6 gives them the advantage in the head-to-head tie breaker. The Ravens finished the regular season as the fourth ranked seed, and will host the fifth ranked Gee-Gees at MNP Park.
This upcoming weekend is the first time Carleton will host a playoff game since the 1986 season. The Ravens entered the ’86 season as the defending OQIFC conference champions after an amazing run to the title in 1985. Coming off such a successful year, the squad fed off that energy, leaving them undefeated through the first five weeks. The following week was the Panda Game matchup, where the Gee-Gees handed the Ravens their first loss of the season. This game was arguably the biggest upset of the year, but Carleton would get their revenge in round one of playoffs with a win over Ottawa.
“There are a lot of parallels between the ‘86 team and this year’s team,” said Carleton Ravens kicker of the 1986 team, Jeff Morris. “The core of our group was brought in in 1982 when Ace Powell became coach, and it was sort of a rebirth of the program. Not to the extent that it was a complete rebirth when Steve Sumarah started the program over, but Ace Powell was hired as coach […] and he recruited heavily, and we were predominately a first-year team […] ‘86 is the year for two of three years that we planned to win the Vanier Cup.”
Upon defeating uOttawa in the first round of playoffs, they were knocked off in the conference final against Bishop’s, a team which they had defeated easily in previous matchups.
“I remember us sitting on the bench, watching the clock tick down,” reflected Morris. “We had fully expected that morning to be coming back preparing on Monday to play UBC, but we fell short. It was stunning for us, but unless you are the champion, all seasons end that way.”
Unfortunately for Morris, and a core group of graduating players, this was their final game as Carleton Raven football players. Morris explained that there is a lot of excitement and attention surrounding a player’s final game, but it is important to know how to deal with the energy.
“I think that it puts a little bit of urgency into the equation,” he said. “For the graduating players, it is sort of like a now-or-never mentality, and you really have to harness that and channel it in the right direction.”
“Part of the beauty of that program, and what coach Sumarah is building is very much a next-man-up [program] […] but I think one of the good things we have seen, which is going to help sustain the program is that the recruiting classes that coach Sumarah and the staff have put together have been outstanding. Even if someone goes down, or someone graduates, they are preparing their players to step up.”
Morris, who will be attending the game on Saturday, feels that if Carleton plans to be successful, they have to take the lead early in the game, but refrain from getting comfortable.
“What you want to do against Ottawa is take the lead early and put them away. If you are up against Ottawa U, you have to get up and step on their throats, putting them to bed. If you get the lead early you have to accelerate, rather than taking your foot off the pedal.”
While the squad of 1986 was certainly one for the history books, Jeff Morris believes that the current team has what it takes to go all the way.
“We had a lot of great football players, but I look at this football team – the players, the level of athlete – it is head and shoulders above where we were at that time. The commitment level and intensity of football is the same, but the players they have now are outstanding. It has been fun for all of us with the rebirth of the program to see it grow, and we are all so happy that these kids have come in and taken it to the next level. We want them to win the championship that we never got.”
A Review of the 2016 Panda Game:
The Ravens captured their third consecutive Panda Game win this year, returning Pedro the Panda back to Carleton University. The University of Ottawa entered the Week 6 game undefeated, but suffered a 43-23 loss in front of 23,329 fans, the highest CIS regular season attendance on record in the past two decades. While the Panda Game was filled with lots of excitement, this time around is do-or-die. Pedro is not up for grabs, but a trip to the semi-final is.
|OTTAWA||2016 Panda Game Statistics||CARLETON|
|339||Net Yards Passing||296|
|152||Net Yards Rushing||142|
|120||Total Punt Return Yards||234|
Carleton vs. Ottawa, The Stats:
OTT – Derek Wendel (367.0 YPG, 22 TDs, 66.9% completion (232/347), 10 INT)
CU – Jesse Mills (276.8 YPG, 15 TDs, 65.6% completion (166/253), 8 INT)
OTT – Mitchell Baines (123.0 YPG, 8 TDs)
CU – Nate Behar (98.5 YPG, 9 TDs)
CU – Jayde Rowe (136.8 YPG, 8 TDs)
OTT – Bryce Vieira (62.4 YPG, 2 TDs)
CU – Leon Cenerini (48-36-66, 8.3 TPG, 3 sacks)
OTT – Ty Cranston (44-20-54, 6.8 TPG, 0 sacks)
Ravens Head Coach, Steve Sumarah’s View:
KH: Panda Game is fun, but this is the real deal here. Explain to me the importance of this game in comparison to the Panda Game
SS: The Panda Game is fun, it’s exciting, they give you a trophy, and there are lots of people there, but it’s one of eight games. This is do-or-die, the one and done scenario. So the importance of this game is double/triple the importance of Panda.
KH: Last week you played Waterloo, a team which had no chance of making playoffs. How did you keep the team focused on that game, when they knew that an easy win over Waterloo would guarantee them a home playoff game?
SS: We just talked about ourselves. That game was about the Ravens getting better, it was about our execution. That was our number one goal, and we also had a feeling that guys were going to get play time that hadn’t played as much all year, so it was a good opportunity for them to showcase themselves.
KH: This is the first year of the new program that you will have graduating players. What is the overall atmosphere in the change room this week as you prepare for the big game, a game which could potentially be the last for some players?
SS: There are guys in the room now that are saying ‘this is it for us’. If they don’t win then their seasons and career could potentially be over. It speaks a lot more to their burning desire to be successful at this point. It is showing the first and second year guys that this does have an ending point, and you can never assume that next year is going to be your year.
KH: I think everyone has heard the phrase “it’s tough to beat a team twice”. Do you believe this, and if so, what makes it so difficult to beat a team twice, especially in the OUA conference?
SS: I’m not sure if it is so much as having to beat a team twice as it is just having to beat somebody. This is definitely talked about within our group. We do have the confidence that we have beat them, but we have that fear that they have played us – they know our strengths and weaknesses as much as we know theirs – they have talented players, and we have to contain them.
Watch the Game:
Kickoff is Saturday, October 29, at 1 p.m. The quarterfinal game will take place at MNP Park in Ottawa, and can be streamed on OUA.tv.
ADDITIONAL MEDIA COVERAGE: RAVENS VS. GEE-GEES – Round II
Carleton Ravens enjoy steady growth in football rebirth (Ken Warren, Ottawa Sun)
Ravens quarterback Jesse Mills enjoying team’s rise to national prominence (Ken Warren, Ottawa Sun)
VanWynsberghe flying high with Ravens (Jacob Robinson, Simcoe Reformer)
Ottawa Gee-Gees, Carleton Ravens will square off in OUA football playoffs (Postmedia Network)