Written by Steven Marchand
Photo by Valerie Wutti
OTTAWA, Ontario – On Friday, the Carleton Ravens football team hosted their annual team dinner, a night that brought together generations of players, coaches and their families for one final celebration of the 2018 season.
The night began with head coach Steve Sumarah recapping the past year, one that saw the Ravens finish with a 5-3 regular season record, along with a home playoff victory against the McMaster Marauders. Although their season ended a week later in the Yates Cup semifinal against the Western Mustangs, Sumarah says he still considers 2018 a success. “Like always, you’re looking to improve on what happened last year,” he says. “We have a very good recruiting class, we’re returning a nice core of guys, and we’re excited to see where this is going to go.”
Among the noteworthy names in attendance was Canadian Football League (CFL) commissioner Randy Ambrosie, who says that the Ravens’ camaraderie is something every football team should strive for. “It was a real celebration of football tonight, and of an amazing football program,” he says. “I’d say for other programs, the more they can get that culture around saying ‘the game did something for us, how can we give back?’ … I saw that in abundance tonight.”
In a speech, Ambrosie detailed his future plans to bring U Sports football and the CFL closer together. “One of the things, very specifically, is to bring the Grey Cup and the Vanier Cup back together,” he says. “I believe that if our university game is stronger, our CFL game is stronger. Those two are completely linked.”
Awards were then handed out for the top Ravens of the 2018 season, including LB Jack Cassar, who took home the top defensive player of the year award. For him, tonight was a chance to reconnect with recent graduates and former teammates. “My favourite part from tonight was definitely seeing some of the alumni that I’ve gotten to build a relationship with over the years,” he says. “Just being able to reunite with them, and to talk with them after a while of not seeing them.” Cassar was also named an OUA 1st team all-star in 2018, along with linemates Kene Onyeka, Tevin Bowen and Jonathan Edouard.
As the graduating class of Ravens were honoured on stage, the evening ended with a look to the future: members of the 2019 recruiting class, which Sumarah considers one of the best in the nation. Two such recruits, Michael del Rizzo and Melique Straker, signed their letters of intent on-stage in front of the audience. A prospect of Clarkson Football North, Straker says he’s now focused on taking the field for the first time in a Ravens uniform. “(Carleton) felt like home,” he says. “I know that coach Sumarah and the staff are developing a winning culture here, and … I’m just ready to go.”
While he’s also focused on the future, Sumarah says events like these give him a chance to thank those that made the last season possible. “These are always fantastic nights,” he says. “The honouring of the 1976-80 program, the graduating guys having their moment in the sun, and then obviously introducing our new guys and giving out team awards. It’s just a special celebration of Ravens football.”