Montréal, Quebec – It has been said that there are three inevitabilities in life, death, taxes and the Montréal Carabins and Laval Rouge et Or squaring off for the Dunsmore Cup.
It is truly astounding how many times the matchup for best in RSEQ football has come down to Laval and Montréal. In the 43 times that the trophy has been awarded, 13 times it has come at the conclusion of a Carabins and Rouge et Or game, including the last nine years in a row.
Not since Sherbrooke lost to Laval in 2012 has another team in the RSEQ had a shot at the provincial title with Laval winning five of the last nine years and Montréal taking the other four.
It’s one of the best annual rivalries in U SPORTS and on Saturday afternoon at the top of Mount Royal at CEPSUM in Montréal it kicks off again. Let’s break down a little of both the squads taking part.
Montréal is ride or die with Jonathan Sénécal
Look up the definition of heartbreak and you’ll find the Carabins’ loss to Laval in the Dunsmore Cup a year ago. In front of a packed house in Quebec City, the 24-24 game looked destined for overtime after Laval kicker Vincent Blanchard sent a potential game-winning field goal wide but Montréal’s Carl Chabot was unable to get out of his endzone, giving Laval a walk-off rouge to win the trophy.
The Carabins entered 2023 in search of revenge, and the opportunity to do that starts and ends with quarterback Jonathan Sénécal.
Sénécal, a third year business administration student had one of the best seasons ever for a Montréal quarterback in 2023. The newly named RSEQ Player of the Year finished with a league-high 15 touchdown passes while throwing for 2215 yards, second all-time in Carabins history. Sénécal also managed to set a new Carabins record of his own, finishing with 394 rushing yards to set a new record while adding six rushing touchdowns.
The Carabins looked unbeatable for most of the season, winning their first seven games and having the closest result be a 31-14 victory over Laval on September 17. Montréal looked set for a perfect 8-0 season until things came crashing down in the final week. After taking a 14-0 lead into halftime against Concordia on October 28, the Carabins were shutout entirely in the second half and watched Eric Maximuik nail a 42-yard field goal with no time left to give the Stingers a walk-off 16-14 win and denying Montréal a perfect season.
Still, with first place locked up, the Carabins got a semifinal matchup with the Sherbrooke Vert et Or, who they proceeded to demolish 57-3, booking their spot in the Dunsmore Cup for the 10th straight year.
Montréal may hold the strongest offence in RSEQ this year but their defence is nothing to sleep on. Led by the RSEQ Most Oustanding Defensive Player in linebacker Harold Miessan, the Carabins gave up just 93 points in eight games the lowest total in the country.
With a pair of wins against Laval on the season, including a 28-0 blowout win at home on October 14, this might be the year that the Carabins even up their Dunsmore series at five a piece and get a shot to play in the Uteck Bowl.
Can you ever truly bet against Laval?
For 19 consecutive seasons, the road to the Dunsmore Cup has meant a matchup with Laval.
In every year since 2003 (not including the cancelled 2020 COVID season) the Laval Rouge et Or have found themselves playing for the highest honour in RSEQ. 15 of those times the red and gold have taken the trophy back to Quebec City, and in 2023 they will get another shot but it wasn’t the easiest road to get there.
Beyond their matchups with Montréal the Rouge et Or were as strong as they have ever been. A 6-2 record gave them second in the conference, but both losses came in blowout games at the hands of the Carabins, a 31-14 loss in September and a 28-0 drubbing in October.
In their semifinal matchup against Concordia though, things went nearly completely haywire for the Rouge et Or. Laval looked to be cruising holding a 24-10 lead with five minutes to play but Concordia quarterback Oliver Roy made a nine-yard touchdown run to finish off a 101 yard drive and cut the lead to 24-17 with 4:40 to play. He followed that up by marching the Stingers 79 yards downfield and hitting Ezechiel Tieide with a 34 yard touchdown pass that tied the game up at 24-24 with 90 seconds to play. Laval couldn’t break the deadlock, meaning the game went to overtime.
In overtime, Eric Maximuik hit a 41-yard field goal for Concordia before Vincent Blanchard answered with a 45-yard one for Laval. Finally, in double overtime, Arnaud Desjardins found Édouard Arsenault. for a 10-yard touchdown to make it 34-27, which held on to be the final.
So Laval took a tough road to get to back to Dunsmore but still come in with a formidable side. Led by quarterback Arnaud Desjardins, who threw for 1763 yards and 12 touchdowns the Rouge et Or finished with 226 points, good for second in the conference behind the Carabins.
Laval also picked up a healthy amount of hardware on both sides of the ball, as secondary Justin Cloutier was named Rookie of the Year, Maxime Olivier Cabana and Jordan Lessard picked offensive and defensive rookie of the year, respectively and Vincent Blanchard finished as Special Teams Player of the Year.
If the question is which team is the strongest on paper, then the Montréal Carabins will come out on top on Saturday. If the question is which side kind of always feels like an inevitability to win, then the Laval Rouge et Or should be clear favourites.
There isn’t really a clear cut favourite for the Dunsmore Cup though and that’s what makes it one of the best rivalries in football.