Written by Ally Conlon
Photo by Valerie Wutti
OTTAWA, Ontario – This coming Saturday the Carleton University Raven’s football team will be facing their rival team, the University of Ottawa Gee-Gee’s, head to head at TD Stadium in Lansdowne Park.
Starting in 1955, the Panda game has been one of the most infamous university football games across Canada.
When the Raven’s team was reinstated in 2013, they grabbed the win at the first Panda game back at TD Stadium in 2014. Since then, the Raven’s had held that winning streak until last year when the team unfortunately fell short 33-17 to the Gee-Gee’s.
“It’s hard to keep those streaks going,” Ravens head coach Steve Sumarah says. “Especially in the Panda game where there are so many variables that come into play.”
With the Gee Gee’s having lost their most recent game against the Guelph Gryphons, and the Ravens beating the University of Toronto, Carleton hopes that this will be an energy booster for not only the team, but the fans as well.
Sumarah believes that “if we can use that (same) momentum to carry into this week, it will be a big positive.”
Playing in his fourth and last Panda game this year, Ravens WR Phil Iloki is trying his best not to let his emotions get the best of him before game time.
“At the end of the game I will feel it more than I do now,” says Iloki. “It will probably be a downpour of emotions.”
Iloki has stayed loyal to Carleton and his hometown of Ottawa since the beginning. One of the reasons he chose to come play for the Ravens in the first place was due to his “exceptional experience” the university was able to provide him with.
“I remember my first (Panda game) ever and I had no idea what to expect,” he says.
Now, Iloki’s younger brother Honoreal, will be able to follow in Phil’s footsteps as a Ravens WR. With plenty of memories and a lot to look back on, Phil plans to pass down his knowledge and legacy to current and future rookies.
Ravens rookie DL Sandor Mod on the other hand, will be playing in his first ever Panda game this year. Mod says, “it is a huge honour to play in a game that is known by all of Canada.”
“There are a lot of eyes watching this game and opportunities to prove yourself and show what you have to offer.”
Mod has played in the OUA for three years now, this year being his first with the Ravens. Going into a very hyped up game, he says that “we are going to go in there, do our job, and leave it all on the field just like any other game.”
Since training camp, Sumarah has been implementing the mentality that this is just another season game against the University of Ottawa. Once the players allow the outside factors of the game into their heads, that’s when there becomes a problem.
Last year, Sumarah felt that “the biggest thing is we didn’t capitalize on (the Gee-Gee’s) mistakes and we made too many ourselves.”
“I want strong energy but controlled emotions,” says Sumarah. “Sometimes, people think emotion is energy, but emotion can flip from one play to the next where energy is a consistent support for the team and executing our plays well.”