Written by Alex Kurial
Photo by Marc Lafleur
The Ravens will be looking to quickly put the 2017 campaign in their rear-view mirror when they kickoff against the Western University Mustangs at home this Sunday. After three straight seasons of improvement in the win column, including 2 consecutive playoff appearances (2015 & 2016) and a pair of postseason wins, Carleton saw the 2017 year end with a 3-5 record. The Ravens perhaps deserved a better fate, losing three of their games by less than a touchdown. Ultimately, not being able to pull out those close matchups was the difference, as Carleton missed out on a playoff spot by a single game.
There were still plenty of highlights on the season, most notably a thrilling 33-30 double overtime win over rivals Ottawa in the Panda Game at TD Place. It was Carleton’s fourth straight victory in the annual Ottawa derby, which marks their longest winning streak in the Panda Game’s storied 49 year history. This year will be the 50th edition of the game, scheduled for September 29 at 1pm at TD Place.
Carleton Ravens- 2017 Summary:
2017 regular season record: 3-5
2017 regular season standings: 8th in OUA
2017 playoff record: 0-0
2017 playoff finish: Did not make playoffs
Head Coach: Steve Sumarah
– Number of seasons as head coach with team (including 2018): Entering 6th season as Head Coach
– Number of seasons as head coach in CIS (including 2018): Entering 12th season as USports Head Coach
– Career regular season record with team: 18-22
– Career regular season record in CIS: 53-34
– Career overall record with team (reg. season & playoffs only): 18-22
– Career overall record in USports (reg. season & playoffs only): 61-34
Head coach Steve Sumarah is back for a sixth season at the helm, having served as the man at the top since the reincarnation of the Carleton football program in 2013. Sumarah has some new faces on the sideline this year to help him on his team’s quest back to the playoffs. Paul Eddy Saint-Vilien is the new defensive coordinator, joining the team after spending four years with the Montreal Carabins of the RSEQ.
“As we enter a new era of Ravens football, we are extremely excited to have one of the top defensive coaches in the country join our program,” Sumarah said when Saint-Vilien was hired in March. “Paul’s knowledge of the front seven and backend will be invaluable in helping us get back into the playoffs and beyond.”
Also new is defensive backs coach Devin Murphy, who has had previous coaching tenures with the Ottawa Gee-Gees and Saint Mary’s Huskies. Sumarah, who knows Murphy well from their time together at Saint Mary’s, was enthusiastic to reunite with his former colleague.
“Having worked with Devin before I am excited to have him bring his expertise and enthusiasm to the defensive back position,” said Sumarah upon Murphy’s hiring. “His experience as a defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach is extensive, and he will bring invaluable knowledge to the position.”
Number of returning starters: 6
Key returning players:
Key recruits or transfers:
The offensive side of the ball will see a relatively high turnover this year, with only half of the starters returning from last year. The biggest loss will be felt in the trenches with the departure of centre Zach Annen, a USPORTS First Team All-Canadian who, after completing his collegiate career last season, is now a member of the Montreal Alouettes.
“The turnover we have had will create holes in our roster for sure, but also opportunities for others to step up,” said Sumarah.
Carleton’s star running back Nathan Carter will return to the backfield looking to equal last year’s impressive showing. Carter rushed for 1110 yards and 6 touchdowns in 2017, the only running back in the OUA to top the thousand yards mark. His efforts resulted in a Second Team All-Canadian nod, and also guided Carleton to a third place conference finish in rushing yards, averaging 200 per game.
Other key returning members of the offense include wide receiver Phil Iloki, who led the team last season with 589 yards and 5 touchdowns. Guiding the team under centre is quarterback Mike Arruda, who threw for 2146 yards (3rd best in OUA) and 12 touchdowns (4th best in OUA) in 2017.
Number of returning starters: 10
Key returning players:
Key recruits or transfers:
The defensive side of the ball meanwhile will see the vast majority of its starters return for the 2018 campaign. However, Carleton will have a tall task to replace the 68 tackles (2nd best in OUA) provided by linebacker Leon Cenerini in his final year with the Ravens. One of the stars of this unit is defensive end Kene Oyneka, whose 10.5 sacks last season was the top mark in the OUA. Oyneka’s terrorizing of opposing backfields earned him First Team All-Canadian honors, and would also see him drafted in the 4th round of the 2018 CFL draft by the Ottawa Redblacks.
Fellow defensive lineman Fred Robitaille also left his mark on the field last season, his 6.5 sacks good for third in the OUA. The dominant efforts of Oyneka and Robitaille put Carleton firmly on top of the 2017 sacks table in the conference.
Key returning players: Michael Domagalo P/K
Key recruits or transfers: Vincent Plouffe P/K Gatineau, QC
Date: Sunday, August 26 (1 PM)
Location: MNP Park – Ottawa, ON
Carleton’s first opponent of the new year will be the Western Mustangs, a perennial powerhouse who last year cruised through all OUA and national competition en route to an undefeated record and the Vanier Cup title. The head to head matchup in London, ON was a one-sided affair that finished 51-14 for Western.
The Mustangs present a major challenge on both sides of the ball. Running back Alex Taylor is a First Team All-Canadian, and is fortunate to have his running lanes cleared by the blocking of fellow First Team tackle David Brown.
Western quarterback Chris Merchant threw for 300 yards against the Ravens last season, an issue that will need to be addressed by new DC Saint-Vilien. Harry McMaster is a danger at wide receiver, and gave Carleton plenty of headaches in 2017 catching 5 passes for 114 yards and a touchdown.
If that were not enough, Western boasts star assets on both their defense and special teams. Jean-Gabriel Poulin is an imposing linebacker who received First Team All-Canadian honors, while kicker Marc Liegghio was rewarded with a Second Team selection for his OUA leading 125 points and 91% field goal accuracy (29 for 32).
Carleton will no doubt be in tough for this opening match, however they do have the advantage of home field this year. Coach Sumarah has high expectations for the season, with Sunday’s game being the first step.
“We are very excited about the upcoming season as we believe we can stay among the elite teams in the very tough OUA,” said Sumarah. “We believe that we have taken great strides over the past couple of years but we will be judged by our performance on the field. Our players and coaches are excited for the challenge.”