TORONTO, ON – One down, three to go.
In a busy week of U SPORTS playoff football, the Montreal Carabins were the first team to punch their ticket to the U SPORTS national semi-final by defeating the Laval Rouge et Or 28-19 on Sunday to win their second straight Dunsmore Cup as RSEQ champions. They will now face the winner of the Hardy Cup, Canada West’s championship game.
In all other parts of the country, a total of 12 teams played in conference semi-final games this past weekend, with berths in the Yates Cup, Loney Bowl and the aforementioned Hardy Cup on the line.
We have to start in Quebec, where the Carabins and Rouge et Or battled for the RSEQ’s ultimate prize for the eighth consecutive season. The last time anyone other than those two teams played in the Dunsmore Cup was the 2012 edition, where Laval bested the Sherbrooke Rouge et Or. In an even crazier statistic, this was Laval’s ~18th~ straight Dunsmore Cup appearance. The last time an RSEQ title game didn’t feature at least one of Laval and Montreal was in 2002 (I was five years old) when McGill won a defensive battle, 10-6, over Concordia.
Now back to this year’s game.
RSEQ DUNSMORE CUP
 LAVAL 19 |  MONTREAL 28
Laval rarely comes into a Dunsmore Cup game as the underdog, but that was the case in this one as they faced a Carabins team to whom they lost twice in the regular season. The Rouge et Or were also the road team for the first time since 2016 and only the second time since 2004. Glen Constantin’s team didn’t let the pressure get to them early; on their first drive of the game, Arnaud Desjardins found receiver Kevin Mital for a 20-yard touchdown to give Laval the early 7-0 lead. They would add to it on a 25-yard Vincent Blanchard field goal and carry a 10-0 lead into the second. That was when the home side found paydirt for the first time, as Jonathan Senecal found running back Bertrand Beaulieu out of the backfield. The 17-yard score got the Carabins on the board, trailing 10-7. Then, with just three seconds left in the half, Beaulieu ran in a 1-yard major to punctuate a 10-play drive which started from the Carabins 2-yard line, meaning Montreal held a 14-10 halftime lead. In the third quarter, after Blanchard made it a one-point game with a 32-yarder, P.A. Ouellette caught Dimitri Morand’s only pass of the game for a 2-yard touchdown, extending Montreal’s edge to 21-13. And the high-powered Carabins weren’t done there, as who else by Beaulieu caught his second touchdown of the day from 13 yards out – his third total – to make it 28-13. Laval inched closer on the final play of the third quarter on a Mathieu Robitaille touchdown run, but that was as close as they would get as the Carabins took the game 28-19 to win their second straight Dunsmore. They will now wait to host the winner of the CanWest conference in the Uteck Bowl on November 28.
EAST:  OTTAWA 15 |  QUEEN’S 32
The Queen’s Gaels remained one of two undefeated teams in U SPORTS football ahead of their OUA semi-final with the Ottawa Gee-Gees. With a win over Ottawa, Queen’s would advance to its first Yates Cup since 2013, where they lost 51-22 to Western, and host the game for the first time since 2009 – also against Western. With an Ottawa victory, they would advance to the Yates for the first time since a heartbreaking 26-25 loss to the Mustangs in 2010. Ottawa scored the only points of the first quarter on a 17-yard Campbell Fair field goal. In the second, Rasheed Tucker scored his first of two seemingly-obligatory touchdowns on the afternoon with a 10-yard jaunt to make it 7-3 Gaels. Then, with no time remaining in the half, James Keenan went down the seam for Josh Macleod, who hauled it in for a 48-yard touchdown, expanding the Queen’s lead to 14-3 at the break. Queen’s continued to play well defensively and allowed only another field goal in the third while waiting for a relatively quiet Queen’s offence to erupt. They did with a Nick Liberatore 37-yard field goal and another long-bomb to Macleod for 6 – this time a 33-yard connection – to make it 24-6. Tucker added a 1-yard TD run late in the fourth as Queen’s stayed perfect with a 32-15 victory and await the winner of the West Final between Guelph and Western to determine their Yates Cup.
WEST  GUELPH 12 | WESTERN 33
The Western Mustangs had a chance to play in their sixth Yates Cup in a row with a win over the Guelph Gryphons on Saturday. It was the Gryphons who scored first on a 47-yard Eric Stranz field goal after a return set the Gryphons up inside Western territory. However, Western punched back on its first possession with a 1-yard Keon Edwards touchdown run to make it 7-3 Mustangs. Stranz converted on another field goal from 39 yards out for Guelph later in the first, and Western led 7-6 after one. There wouldn’t be another point scored until late in the second on another 1-yard Edwards touchdown, which made it 14-6 Western, before Stranz made his third field goal of the half – this from 25 out – and Western clung to a five-point lead at the break 14-9. In the third, the Mustangs showed their ability to score through the air, with a 19-yard connection between QB Evan Hillock and Justin Nickson. That made it a 21-9 game, and the Gryphons would never get closer than that as the rest of the game’s points came on field goals, including three from Brian Garrity en route to a 33-12 Western victory. That sets up a rematch of the 2013 Yates Cup between the Gaels and Mustangs, the only difference being Queen’s will be the home team. It will also be the first Yates Cup not played in London since 2014 at Ron Joyce Stadium in Hamilton.
OUA YATES CUP
[1W Western @ [1E] Queen’s (Sat, Nov 20 – 1:00 pm ET)
 ACADIA 22 |  ST. FX 27
As we mentioned, Queen’s was one of two unblemished teams in U SPORTS football coming into semi-final weekend. The other is the St. FX X-Men, who came in 6-0 and were looking to return to the Loney Bowl for the first time since 2018 against the reigning AUS champion Acadia Axemen, who have had a down year coming in at 1-5. This game had tons of fireworks in the opening quarter. The X-Men scored first on their opening drive with a 36-yard Max Capriotti field goal, and went up 10-0 thanks to a 28-yard Zakariya Karim touchdown grab. Then it was Acadia’s turn. They responded emphatically on the next play from scrimmage as Cole Estabrooks ripped off a 95-yard romp to the house to get the Axemen on the board. Then in the dying seconds of the quarter, Julien Poirier-McKiggan caught a 28-yard touchdown from Daniel Hashem to make it 14-10 Axemen before Ben George drilled the ensuing kickoff into the end zone for a rouge to give Acadia a 15-10 lead after one. The scoring continued in the second. First, it was Cherokee Robinson taking a jet sweep 42 yards to the end zone to extend the Axemen lead to 22-10. Then, back cam the X-Men, as Malcolm Bussey ran one in from four yards out to cap a 104-yard drive and make it 22-17. That was quickly followed by a Capriotti field goal from 42 on the final play of the first half, and it was 22-20 Acadia after 30 minutes. Both teams caught their collective breaths at the break and the scoring slowed considerably. The teams played to a scoreless third frame, and, with 5:50 left in the fourth, it was Silas Fagnan once again finding Karim for a 46-yard go-ahead major to make it 27-22. The teams then traded punts before Robinson had a double-pass picked off by Nick Clarke to seal it for the X-Men, who survive a scare to return to the Loney Bowl for the second time in three seasons.
 BISHOP’S 23 |  MOUNT ALLISON 5
The Mount Allison Mounties came into their semi-final game against Bishop’s after a 5-1 season but got there in a different way than the X-Men got to their 6-0 record. Mount Allison scored just 94 points this season and won games mainly on account of their defence. It turned out those offensive inefficiencies would be their undoing. Bishop’s took a 7-0 lead after one on a 15-yard Mathe Mitayango touchdown run and added to it in the second when Jake Kelly took a Julian Wytnick touchdown pass back to the house 86 yards. The Gaiters led 14-0 at the half. James Parker got the Mounties on the board in the third with a 34-yard kick, but the Mounties could not get anything going offensively in this game. They totalled just 177 yards of offence. Bishop’s only major of the second half came courtesy of a 35-yard Mason McGriskin touchdown pass to Louis-Philippe Gregoire, as the Gaiters played a tremendous road game and were suffocating defensively in a 23-5 victory. Bishop’s moves onto the Loney Bowl for the second straight year, and it would appear their move from the RSEQ to the AUS before 2017 has more than paid dividends.
AUS LONEY BOWL
 Bishop’s @  St. FX (Sat, Nov 20 – 2:00 pm AT)
 UBC 17 |  SASKATCHEWAN 39
The Saskatchewan Huskies were looking to earn a third straight Hardy Cup berth with a win over the upstart UBC Thunderbirds, who won three of their final four games to reach the fourth and final CanWest playoff spot. After three rouges gave Saskatchewan a 3-0 lead, they finally found the end zone late in the first on a 14-yard touchdown run from Adam Machart to make it 10-0. UBC responded midway through the second when Garrett Rooker snuck in for six to make it a 10-7 game. The clubs then traded field goals late in the half, and Saskatchewan led 13-10 at the intermission. In the third, they restored their 10 point lead as Mason Nyhus found Daniel Perry for a 20-yard major before adding two more on a conceded safety by the T-Birds to lead 22-10 after three. The Thunderbirds cut into that lead in the fourth when freshman Lucas Mastrodomenico ran it in from six yards out to make it 22-17. From there on, though, it was all Huskies. A 15-yard David Solie field goal was sandwiched in between another TD reception from Machart and one from Sam Baker – a 14-yarder – as Saskatchewan will host its first Hardy Cup game since 2009, where they fell in a heartbreaker to the Calgary Dinos 39-38.
 ALBERTA 17 | MANITOBA 43
The Manitoba Bisons had a somewhat-disappointing end to their season after beginning the year 3-0, as they dropped two of their final three to finish 4-2. That was still good enough to host a playoff game, though, and it would be an understatement to say it was a snowy one. The Bisons were dominant in this one, not allowing a first down in the opening quarter and leading 16-0 thanks to three conceded safeties, a Cole Sabourin 34-yard field goal and a Breydon Stubbs 2-yard touchdown run. Manitoba got out to a 30-0 lead in the second on a touchdown from Jackson Tachinski on a QB-keeper and a TD reception from star receiver Gavin Cobb. The Bisons led 36-3 at the break. Alberta scored a couple of second-half touchdowns to bring the score closer to respectability, but the Bison’s first-half dominance led them to a 43-17 victory, setting up the first all-Prairie Hardy Cup since the Bisons beat the Regina Rams decisively, 48-5, back in 2007.
CAN WEST HARDY CUP
 Manitoba @  Saskatchewan (Sat, Nov 20 – 1:00 pm CT)