Photo by Valerie Wutti
OTTAWA – The Carleton Ravens and uOttawa Gee-Gees collided under the lights on Thursday night with important playoff positioning hanging in the balance. The Ravens would fall behind early and despite a valiant comeback effort would fail to close the gap falling to the Gee-Gees 24-19.
It was far from a dream start for the young Ravens line-up. After a squibbed opening kickoff, a short punt and a fumbled punt all turned into points against the Ravens found themselves in a big hole. Just as it looked like they had turned the page, trailing 17-0 in the first-quarter, rookie Brandon Forcier (L’Ange Gardien, Que.) would record his first missed field goal attempt of the season, putting a 41-yard attempt wide right. The miss would seem to wake up the Ravens.
Head Coach Steve Sumarah was honest about his team’s start. “We were slow getting going.” Slow as they were, the Ravens began to find some consistency at the end of the quarter. “Once we got a couple of plays together we started to get some momentum, but when you’re down 17-0 it’s a big hole to climb out of.”
As the clock rolled over from the first quarter to the second the Ravens would start their first strong drive downfield. After Glodin Mulali (Moncton, N.B.) gained key field position with a deep reception and penalty, rookie Reid Vankoughnett (Winnipeg, Man.) would punch in his first career rushing touchdown to get the Ravens on the board.
Trailing by 10, the Ravens’ secondary would become the story in the second quarter with a number of big-time plays including a huge breakup by Darren Kyeremeh (Montreal, Que.) in the last minute of the quarter. Under heavy Gee-Gees pressure, Kyeremeh would dive along the near sideline breaking up a Ben Maracle pass and forcing a Gee-Gees punt. The Ravens would turn the stop into solid field positioning as Khalik Johnson (Surrey, BC) would haul in a Vankoughnett pass bringing the Ravens inside the uOttawa 30. With four seconds left on the clock, Brandon Forcier would complete the drive hitting his first field goal of the night bringing the Ravens to within a touchdown at the half.
Despite starting the second half behind, the Ravens would keep the momentum going. With Tristan Rinaldis (Boucherville, Que.) in under centre the Ravens would slowly make their way downfield, trading possessions with the Gee-Gees before pinning them deep in the red zone setting up Forcier’s tenth field goal of the season cutting the lead to four.
After a long Gee-Gees drive, quarterback Ben Maracle would run one in for himself, extending the Gee-Gees lead to eleven points. On the ensuing kickoff, the Ravens would wind up deep inside their own ten and immediately start marching downfield. On consecutive second-and-long situations, Vankoughnett would find Johnson and Mulali to keep the Ravens drive going. As they approached the Gee-Gees red zone the Ravens would reinsert Rinaldis who would find a hole in the garnet line and run one in for himself.
Looking to bring the game to within three, the Ravens would have their two-point conversion broken up along the left corner of the goal line stopping their comeback in its tracks.
The Ravens now await the result of the Red & Blue Bowl rematch as the Varsity Blues and Lions collide on Saturday afternoon. A Toronto win will see the Ravens travel to Queen’s while a Lions win will lead to a third matchup between the Ravens and Gee-Gees.
Asked about the growth of his young team, coach Steve Sumarah recognizes his team can’t get off to another so slow start. “Playoff games are playoff games, and now we get to try to take this to the next level and see if we can put a full game together.” The Ravens now have a few extra days of rest as they await an opponent and destination for their November 6 playoff matchup.