Ottawa, ON – For eighteen long months, the corner of Bronson Avenue and Sunnyside Drive has sat dormant waiting for the return of Ravens football. On a sunny afternoon in September that saw many nods to the future and had a Carleton Ravens legend of history in the house to welcome the team home, it was a familiar problem that plagued the Carleton Ravens and saw their bid for the 2021 Yates Cup sputter out of the gate.
A clear energy enveloped the Raven’s Perch (formerly MNP Park) from well before kickoff. With just 750 people, the crowd on the afternoon included many Carleton Ravens Season Ticket Holders. Families young and old arrived in and around the Raven’s Fieldhouse and greeted each other like old friends after a long time apart. Ravens paraphernalia spread across the grandstands (including one fan who donned a custom Mitchell Raper sweater for the 5th year running back). Even the familiar sound of rivals in the stands could be heard throughout, as a large contingent of Queen’s Gaels faithful made the trip up from Kingston.
It wasn’t always “normal.” Thanks to COVID-19 protocols, the capacity was limited, but no concessions were sold on-site and fans were kept socially distant across the grandstands of the Perch. It may not have been how anyone envisioned it, but it was real OUA football. With a coin-toss from special guest Keith Harris, the honorary namesake of the Carleton Football stadium and former Athletic Director who celebrated his 90th birthday at the park, after a 679 day wait, OUA Football had officially begun again.
The First Half
The first quarter was, at best, a clear showing that both rosters had rust with outside of one 40 yard pass from DeJong a string of two and outs for both sides. That put a lot of pressure on Ravens punter Vincent Plouffe who stepped up, consistently pinning the Gaels deep in their end. Plouffe received a lot of assistance throughout the day on special teams by Jonathan Edouard. When asked about those vital special teams plays, Edouard said, “Coach really emphasizes every week that special teams are just as important as the other 2 (offence and defence), so I just make sure I put my all out there and win the field position battle for the team and put our defence in the best position to pin them deep.”
The Ravens finally broke through on offence as their final drive of the first quarter stalled at the Gaels 32-yard line, but Brandon Forcier was able to nail the field goal.
Despite a sputtering start for the Ravens offence under 5th-year quarterback Tanner Dejong, his connection with Keaton Bruggeling on the day will be something to watch as the Ravens head to York on September 25th. Bruggeling finished the game with six catches for 109 yards and recognized the importance of developing early-season chemistry, with DeJong saying, “That’s going to be so key for us. We gotta spread the ball around to everybody but that chemistry between the quarterback and receivers because he is a baller, and we got to be there for him.”
The 2nd quarter is where the Gaels offence got into a rhythm as 3rd-year quarterback James Keenan found rookie Ben Langlois in the end zone to take a 7-3 lead with 45 seconds left on the clock. The end of the 2nd quarter saw the Ravens fumbled the ball, but Gaels kicker Nick Liberatore missed the 24-yard field goal, having it go down as a rouge with Queen’s taking an 8-3 lead into halftime.
The 2nd Half
The Raven’s first drive of the 2nd half started at their 35-yard line moving down into Gaels territory, but with a few costly penalties, it was a drive killer as they had to punt it away. Asked about the number of penalties that killed the momentum for the Ravens, head Coach Steve Sumarah said, “Most of them are mental penalties. You have to be dialled in for 60 minutes, and when you’re not dialled in, you’re going to run into challenges. It’s really hard to play when it’s 2nd and 15 and 1st and 20. Hard to gain momentum.”
Joachim Christian made a huge sack for the Ravens on a 2nd down later in the third quarter. This gave momentum to the offence as DeJong launched a 46-yard pass to Glodin Mulali to drive Carleton downfield almost all the way. Again though, the offence stalled, which set up Brandon Forcier to make another field goal to cut the Gaels lead to 8-6. Early in the fourth quarter, the Gaels got a field goal in response to increase their lead to 11-6. A few possessions later, for the Gaels, a 50-yard strike from James Keenan to Richard Burton punched the lead up to eleven and, after the extra point, made it 18-6 for Queen’s.
In this section of Pags’ Points, we’re going to examine what Carleton could look to improve on as they head into their Week 2 matchup against the York Lions on September 25th.
- Finish chances – The Ravens were in the red zone often on the afternoon but were unable to finish
- Better discipline – All afternoon the Ravens were beset with penalties. It made it difficult to move the ball when you’re already starting off the drive with a penalty.
- Establish the run game – The Ravens finished this game with 59 total rushing yards on 20 total attempts. With Tristan DeJong struggling to shake of the rust in the air the lack of run success for the Ravens put their offence in a deep hole.
The Ravens and the Gaels got a chance to be a part of OUA history on Saturday. After 679 days, OUA football has returned and the quest for the Yates Cup has begun. For the Raven’s though, after their opening day struggles, with finals aspirations in mind, it will take a concerted effort to turn their slow start around to make sure what they hope to be a championship season will not get lost to history.
Cover Photo: @CURavensFootball on Twitter