Photo by Valerie Wutti
OTTAWA- Almost two years later, the City of Ottawa was finally able to welcome back cross-town football with the 52nd annual Panda Game. In yet another classic Panda finish, late-game heroics from kicker Campbell Fair would hand the Gee-Gees a thrilling 19-17 win and extend their Panda winning streak to three.
The game opened up with a passionate national anthem and a special tribute to honour the passing of uOttawa defensive tackle Francis Perron. The Gee-Gees welcomed Perron’s friends and family to the field to gift them his helmet and jerseys.
The first quarter opened with Ravens running back, Nathan Carter (Ottawa, Ont.) breaking the team’s all-time rushing yards on the team’s opening drive. The record was previously held by Ravens alumni Mark Brown dating back to 1988.
“It is definitely something, it’s an achievement for me that I didn’t think I’d ever get.” said Carter when asked how it felt to break this 33-year-old record.
Carter finished the drive with a touchdown opening the scoring. Campbell Fair would close out the first quarter with a 15-yard field goal, cutting the Ravens lead to 7-3.
Early in the second quarter, Gee-Gees receiver Tristan Park scored a 64-yard touchdown to up the Ravens 10-3. The Ravens kept the energy up throughout the first half and the fans followed in concert. At the end of the second quarter, Ravens linebacker Medley Joseph (Montreal, Que.) would fire up the crowd again with the Ravens’ first interception of the season. Despite the pick, the Ravens found themselves down 12-7 at the half.
Both teams played strong defense throughout the third with Fair adding the only points of the quarter with his second field goal of the day.
In true Panda Game fashion, the fourth quarter did not disappoint with both teams giving it their all for the final 15-minutes of the game. After conceding a rouge on a dropped punt, Ravens first-year quarterback Reid Vankoughnett (Winnipeg, Man.) would complete a 10 play, 77-yard drive, connecting with receiver Kalik Johnson (Surrey, B.C.). The touchdown would put the Ravens within two with 6:47 remaining.
As a one-score game, the intensity at TD Place was turned up as the Ravens would force and recover fumbles on back-to-back Gee-Gees possessions. The latter of the two would lead to rookie kicker Brandon Forcier making no mistake on a 32-yard field goal which left the Ravens up 17-16 with 3:53 to go.
After both teams exchanged late-game punts, the Gee-Gees were able to recover their third fumble of the game, setting up a third-and-three with a minute to go. After a pair of offsetting penalties negated the Gee-Gees third-down attempt, Fair would return to the field, completing a 45-yard field goal. Despite having time for one final possession, the Ravens would fall short in their bid to reclaim Pedro, losing 19-17.
The Ravens will look to build on their second-half momentum on a short week, returning to action on Friday, October 8, at the Ravens’ Perch against the University of Toronto. The kickoff at Carleton is set for 6:00 p.m.