Written by Brandi Awad
Photo by Valerie Wutti
OTTAWA, Ontario – The Carleton Ravens kicked off their 2018 OUA football season on August 26 with a heartbreaking loss to the defending Vanier Cup Champion Western Mustangs.
In a hard fought battle from start to finish, the Ravens fell in 26-23 in overtime.
The Carleton Ravens opened the scoring early in the first with a 20-yard field goal from veteran kicker Michael Domagala (St. Catherine’s, ON) to take an early 3-0 lead over the Mustangs.
Western wasn’t able to respond until the second quarter, where they put up a field goal of their own with a kick from the 31-yard line from Marc Liegghio to make it a tie game.
Carleton was quick to answer the Mustangs on their next drive with a 42-yard field goal from Domagala.
Carleton’s defense did a solid job of shutting down Western’s powerful offense and kept them from consistently putting up points on the board.
With just under five minutes left before half, quarterback Michael Arruda (Gatineau, QC) connected with third-year Mitchell Raper (Oshawa, ON) in the end zone with a 69-yard touchdown pass to extend their lead. Domagala was able to snag the extra point to make the game 13-3.
Arruda brought that magic again four minutes later, meeting Phil Iloki (Montreal, QC) this time, with a 44-yard bomb to the end zone. Another kick from Domagala, with just 56 seconds left, left the Mustangs trailing 20-3 by halftime in front of a boisterous hometown crowd.
Unfortunately, the second half of the game didn’t tell the same story.
A scoreless third quarter for the Ravens gave the Mustangs an opportunity to catch up. And they didn’t hold back.
Trailing by 17-points in the third, Western’s Liegghio was able to cut the deficit by three with a 12-yard field goal. Then, with just five minutes to go in the third, QB Chris Merchant met Harry McMaster with a 22-yard pass to inch closer at 13-20.
On the first play of the fourth, the Mustangs’ Phillippe Dion forced a fumble from Arruda at the 37-yard line, recovered it and rushed it to the end zone to tie the game.
The two teams battled back and forth as Merchant worked to bring the Mustangs closer to the red zone. Carleton’s defense worked endlessly to hold them back, but Western was able to bring themselves from their nine-yard line to Carleton’s 22. From there, Liegghio nailed another field goal to give Western the lead for the first time in the game.
It seemed like that was the end of it until Arruda found Illoki at Western’s 42-yard line. With just 0.2 seconds left, the Ravens brought out Domagala in hopes that he would tie the game. The fifth-year kicker answered that call with a 50-yard field goal to send the game into overtime.
Starting at Carleton’s 45 yard line, the Ravens held the Mustangs to just 16 yards to stop them from getting to the end zone. However, they weren’t able to stop Liegghio from another solid field goal attempt to give Western a 26-23 lead.
In a do or die moment for the Ravens, Arruda tried to find a small window with a pass along the sidelines, but an interception from Western’s Bleska Kambamba put that to an end. Game over. Western beats the Ravens 26-23 in a heartbreaking fashion.
However, in spite of the loss, the Ravens have a lot to be proud of. This 2018 squad shows a lot of promise and has the potential to be a force to be reckoned with in the OUA. A 3-point loss to the reigning Vanier Cup Champions is nothing to pout about.
“We proved that we can compete with them,” head coach Steve Sumarah said post-game. “We’re definitely taking strides to take us to where we need to be.”
Heading into their next game against the Windsor Lancers at Alumni Field on September 3, Sumarah says they need to focus on eliminating “little mistakes” that were made this game: “We really need to tighten up on some of our plays and what we’re doing and make it even better.”
While the Ravens are entering the season as underdogs after finishing with a 3-5 record in 2017, Sumarah hopes this first game sent a message across the OUA.
“Hopefully, the message is that they’re going to get 60 minutes of hard nosed football,” he said. “And if we can do that, we’ll see what happens.”
BY THE NUMBERS:
The Ravens put up some big numbers in Sunday’s contest at MNP Park. On offense, Michael Arruda threw an impressive 297 yards, Phil Illoki rushed 115 yards and Quinton Soares (London, ON) followed close behind with a respectable 92.
As for defence, Jack Cassar (Mississauga, ON) led the team in tackles with 10.5 takedowns. Third-year Josh Walsh (Ottawa, ON) also came out strong with 9.5 tackles against the Mustangs.
RAVENS PLAYER OF THE GAME:
DEFENCE: #46 Josh Walsh –Linebacker – 3rd year – Mississauga, ON
Carleton vs. Windsor
Monday, September 3 – 3:00pm