Written By: Mike Hogan
At the beginning of the season, there was general consensus that the Western Mustangs and Laurier Golden Hawks were the two elite teams in the conference. For a half-dozen other OUA squads, the unofficial goal was to try and establish themselves atop ‘the best of the rest.’
You could make an argument for six teams to be included in the discussion – McMaster, Guelph and Waterloo in the west, Queen’s, Ottawa and Carleton in the east.
Of the half-dozen contenders, the Carleton Ravens have done the most to claim the No. 3 slot in the OUA Power Rankings.
The birds opened a lot of eyes in Week 1 with an overtime loss to Western. They led the Mustangs 20-3 at the half, eventually dropping a 26-23 decision in the extra frame.
“We learned we can compete,” said Ravens Head Coach Steve Sumarah, reflecting on that late August afternoon. “We have the horses to go and battle the top teams in the conference, but we can’t make mistakes.”
The errors have been fewer and further between in the subsequent games. Carleton has erased the sting of the Western loss with a 38-20 victory over Windsor, and a nail-biting 21-18 win at Waterloo last weekend.
The win came despite a remarkable day by Warriors quarterback Tre Ford, who passed for 321 yards and rushed for a 104 more. Sumarah invoked the name of three-time Hec Crighton Trophy winning QB Chris Flynn in his praise of Ford, and how good he is.
“Tre Ford makes them special,” Sumarah told ‘In The Huddle’, “I thought we had him for seven or eight sacks. We had two.”
The good news for Sumarah and company is that they don’t have to contend with Ford this week. The bad news is they’re hosting the Queen’s Gaels in a battle of 2-1 teams; a game that could go a long way in terms of playoff seeding. It means the Ravens will go from playing against Ford, to facing Tricolour QB Nate Hobbs, who led the OUA in passing yards last season.
In this case, the fall from the frying pan to the fire isn’t very far.
“Anytime you have a fifth-year QB, you’ve got a guy who has seen it all,” said Sumarah of Hobbs, before expanding on his respect for the Queen’s offence. “They’ve got great athletes at receiver. They have players all over the field on that side of the ball.”
Queen’s was expected to rely on its potent, veteran-laden offence until the relatively inexperienced defence caught up. Sumarah told OUA.ca that when he was watching game film, the Gaels defence was making a lot of plays, especially when they really needed to.
There’s a common thread between Carleton and Queen’s that adds to the drama of this week’s game. Ryan Bechmanis left the Ravens in the off-season to head back to his alma mater to become their defensive coordinator.
The familiarity between Sumarah and Bechmanis makes for a potentially intriguing chess match, but the Ravens’ boss is more concerned about staying true to himself, which may be easier said than done.
“The one challenge,” admitted Sumarah, “Is that you don’t try to do too much out of your comfort level to try and do something different just to keep each other guessing.”
When talking to the head coach, it’s obvious there is something different about this group, and that’s not just because of some new faces on the coaching staff. He says there’s a real sense of togetherness that he feels is unusual.
When the offence needs a boost, the defence gives it to them, or the special teams step up. Every coach hopes for that kind of symbiotic relationship between units, but in this instance, it’s legitimate.
Sumarah points to the chemistry coming from within the locker room, and was quick to highlight one of his players as being instrumental to that togetherness. Tevin Bowen is a fourth year defensive end that has become the alpha dog of the leadership group.
“He’s just really embraced the program and the team,” the coach said of the Toronto native, “both on and off the field.”
That leadership will be important as the Ravens play one of their most important games of the season on Saturday. They may win the game, but Sumarah says it will in all likelihood not be a blowout.
“We’re not that team,” he admitted. “We’ll have to grind out every single game.”
The one question that remains is whether they can grind it out with the OUA’s middle class. We’ll get a good indication of that by how they fare against the Gaels this weekend.
CARLETON 21 WATERLOO 18
The Ravens win over Waterloo was an interesting game on a lot of levels. Tre Ford continued to establish himself as a favourite for the conference MVP, though it came in a losing effort. He threw for 321 yards and a pair for TDs, while rushing for another 104 yards, keeping plays alive with his ability to scramble. He also took over the punting duties from a struggling Caleb Girard, and unloaded an 81-yard bomb, but it was the Ravens kicker that would play the hero. Michael Domagala, who tied the game against Western with a last second 50-yard field goal, won this game with a 22-yarder with just eight seconds left. Waterloo scored the first 15 points of the fourth quarter to tie things up, leading to Domagala’s heroics. The offence was led by Dominic Walker, the transfer from Troy University, who hauled in five passes for 130 yards and a pair of TDs, including a 95-yard score. Gordon Lam led the Warriors with 122 yards on eight catches. Michael Arruda played a pretty clean game for the Ravens, throwing for 272 yards, the two TDs to Walker, and no interceptions. Kene Onyeka was the defensive star for the winners, with two sacks and three tackles for a loss. Carleton won the turnover battle 3-0. The Warriors had the ball for 37:19.
QUEEN’S 43 TORONTO 7
Nathan Langley returned the opening kickoff 110 yards for a touchdown on an afternoon that was all Gaels. Nate Hobbs threw for 386 yards and a TD, adding two rushing touchdowns. His only blemish was an interception that was returned for a 62-yard TD by Toronto’s Caleb Zigby. Chris Osei-Kusi and Benjamin Arhen each had over 100 receiving yards for the winners, who finished with 528 total yards. Malcolm Campbell was effective for Varsity on defence, with a pair of sacks and as many tackles for a loss. The Gaels won the time of possession battle, 37:19 to 22:41. The big win spoiled the return of former Gaels Defensive Coordinator Greg Marshall, who is in his first year as Toronto’s head coach.
OTTAWA 12 GUELPH 10
The Gee-Gees survived a defensive struggle with Guelph to improve to 2-1. Ottawa scored 10 points in the first quarter, doing enough the rest of the way to hold on for the win. Sawyer Buettner started at QB, throwing for 228 yards for the winners, who didn’t turn the ball over. Dawson Odei led Ottawa with 30 carries for 153 yards and a TD. Guelph’s offence struggled all day, aside from an 85-yard TD catch by Zeph Fraser. Aside from that, the Gryphons could muster just 102 passing yards. The usually reliable Gabe Ferraro missed three of his four field-goal attempts, one of which was blocked by Cody Cranston. Ryan Isenor had a 97-yard punt return for Guelph to set up a field goal, but also fumbled at his own 20, leading to an Ottawa three-pointer. The teams combined for 23 penalties for 287 yards. Ottawa sacked Theo Landers seven times.
WESTERN 44 McMASTER 6
The Mustangs amassed 523 yards in offence in their romp over the Marauders. Chris Merchant threw for 354 yards and a TD, while Cedric Joseph rushed for 103 yards and three touchdowns. Eleven different ‘Stangs caught passes. The Marauders are still trying to sort things out with their two young quarterbacks. Both Jackson White and Andreas Dueck saw plenty of action, but each struggled against the tough Western defence. Dueck threw a pair of interceptions, both to Daniel Valente Jr. Jordan Lyons had a tough day on the ground, carrying the ball 10 times for just 17 yards, though he caught four passes for 65 yards. Enoch Penney-Laryea had a big day for the Marauders with two sacks and 3.5 tackles for a loss. Marc Liegghio hit all three field-goal attempts. He’s 7/7 in that category this year, and is also 7/7 in conversion attempts.
YORK 29 WINDSOR 22
The weekend schedule started with a rare Friday game, as the Lions equalled their win total of a year ago. They jumped out to a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter and held on for the victory. The Lancers scored the next 18 points to make a game of it, but could never take the lead. Brett Hunchak threw for 263 yards and a pair of TDs, while his counterpart, Sam Girard, passed for 251 yards, also throwing two touchdown passes. Colton Hunchak caught nine passes for 116 yards and a TD for the winners, while Windsor’s Alex Bornais countered with five catches for 99 yards. Daniel Metcalfe had 10.5 tackles for the Lancers. He’s now second in the conference with an average of 7.8 per game.