TORONTO, ON – U SPORTS football is back.
Canadian university athletics returned for the first time in nearly 18 months when the RSEQ opened its 2021 football season with a pair of games. Kicking off the festivities were the defending Dunsmore Cup champions and Vanier Cup runners-up, the Montreal Carabins, travelling to Sherbrooke for a date with the Vert et Or on Saturday, August 28. Then, the next day, it was the upstart McGill Redbirds tangling with the other perennial francophone powerhouse, the Laval Rouge et Or.
MONTREAL 26 | SHERBROOKE 9
The start of the season was put in jeopardy before it even began after a member of the Carabins program tested positive for COVID-19 on game day. However, after contact tracing was conducted and no other positive tests were announced, the game was allowed to proceed after a two-hour delay.
This was a game that never really had a feel of being in doubt. Montreal scored first on a field goal from freshman kicker Benjamin Lies to make it 3-0 Carabins. Then, before the first quarter was out, the Carabins found paydirt. A deep ball from rookie quarterback and UConn transfer Jonathan Sénécal to Hassane Dosso set up the major. Then, moments later Sénécal found Mikael Arsaneau for the first touchdown of 2021 and a 10-0 Carabins lead.
Sherbrooke would score a safety as the result of an intentional grounding call in the end zone against Sénécal, and trailed 10-2 after the opening 15 minutes.
From there, it was almost all Carabins. Two second-quarter field goals from Lies made it a 16-2 Carabins at the break. Then after a scoreless 3rd frame, Lies hit again from 34 yards out – his fourth field goal of the day – to give his team a 19-2 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Sherbrooke, though, didn’t go away quietly. With just under six minutes to play in the final stanza, the Vert et Or found the end zone for the first time on the season. QB Anthony Robichaud capped off a 12-play, 75-yard drive for the Green and Gold with an 11-yard scamper for six. The extra point made it a two-score game, at 19-9, with time for Sherbrooke to mount an improbable rally.
However, any hopes of a comeback were dashed late by the visitors. Following a fumble by Sherbrooke deep in its own territory, the Carabins took advantage. Sénécal threw his second touchdown of his U SPORTS debut, this time connecting with sophomore wideout Carl Chabot for the score. The extra point tacked on by Lies made it 26-9 with just over two minutes to play. That all but ensured a Carabins victory – the first in the U SPORTS head coaching career of Marco Iadeluca
McGILL 11 | LAVAL 17
This game, on paper at least, was another mismatch between the perennial-Vanier-Cup-contender Laval Rouge et Or and the McGill Redbirds, a team that finished with a 3-5 record in 2019.
Games, though, are not won on paper, and this one was a prime example of the age-old adage, ‘that’s why you play the game.’ Laval was a heavy favourite on the home turf on Sunday, coming in with as many losses in the past six seasons – 5 – as McGill racked up in 2019 alone. Another thing working in Laval’s favour: they had not lost a game to McGill since 2001, a streak amounting to 20 consecutive victories. But the Redbirds, marking their 140th season and a new era in program history under their new name, weren’t about to allow the doubters to creep in.
They came up with the first big play of the game on special teams, getting a blocked field goal from 5th-year senior Benjamin Carre off the foot of freshman kicker Vincent Blanchard. Then, after a third-down stop, the Redbirds put the first points on the board. Andre Couture nailed a 36-yard field goal, capping a 9-play, 55-yard drive, staking his team out to a 3-0 lead. That field goal began a string of punts from both teams. Then, Laval had a chance to tie the game on a 42-yard attempt from Couture, but he was again unable to convert, missing his second straight chance at 3. McGill was able to get the ball out of the end zone; no points were scored and the Redbirds took over at their own 20 yard line.
Laval would get on the board soon after. After an interception tossed by McGill quarterback and Laval native Dimitrios Sinodinos, the home side inherited possession at the Redbirds 34. They would take advantage of the turnover, as Blanchard made amends for his previous two misses, hitting from 22 yards out to square the game at 3.
The teams would exchange punts for the remainder of the half until the final drive. McGill drove the ball down the field and got in position for a final-play field goal. However, this time it was Couture’s turn to come up empty, missing from 23 yards out. The miss resulted in a rouge, and a 4-3 Redbirds lead at halftime.
Coming out of the break, Laval would be the first team to find the end zone. Sophomore signal caller Thomas Bolduc finished off his club’s opening second half drive with a beautiful fade throw into the corner of the end zone too Kevin Mital. He had a step on the defender and made the catch for the game’s opening touchdown. The extra point from Blanchard gave Laval its first lead of the season, 10-4.
The Rouge et Or weren’t done there. They would extend their lead courtesy of a 72 yard sprint from running back Luca Perrier. Perrier was sprung by some terrific blocking in the trenches, and accelerated through the McGill secondary to the house. That touchdown put the hosts up 17-4 after three.
McGill didn’t go away as the fourth quarter got under way. In fact, they responded immediately. An 8-play, 90-yard jaunt down the field was finished off by Sinodinos, who called his own number and scored on a 2-yard QB keeper to cut the Laval lead to six, 17-11.
There was little offence to be had for the remainder of the game. With the score still 17-11 Laval, the Redbirds took over on their own 28 with a chance to pull off the stunning upset. After getting two first downs, McGill was faced with a 3rd and 2 from the Laval 47, 1:08 on the clock. It appeared as though they had a first down, but fifth-year man Pearce Dumay was unable to make the catch. That unfortunate miscue turned the ball over on downs to Laval, ending any shot at one of the biggest regular-season upsets in recent U SPORTS football memory and securing a six-point Rouge et Or win.
RSEQ WEEK 2 SCHDULE
LAVAL ROUGE ET OR (1-0) at CONCORDIA STINGERS (0-0)
SHERBROOKE VERT ET OR (0-1) at McGILL REDBIRDS (0-1)