Sporting an embarrassing 1‒4 record more than halfway through the season, the Varsity Blues took to the field on the evening of Friday, September 27 to salvage what was left of their season. The Blues faced the Carleton Ravens at Varsity Stadium in front of a crowd of 1,932 fans. The Varsity Blues, in partnership with NFL Canada, presented pre-game festivities, including obstacle courses and giveaways, to whet the fans’ appetite for a wild night of football. The Ravens had also been in a rut since the start of the season, having won no games but suffering monumental losses against teams from Western, Waterloo, and Windsor, resulting in a 0‒4 record.
The opening kickoff saw Toronto gain 40 yards for the first down and proceed on the succeeding possession to make a pass to the 10-yard line. Dominating out of the gate, the Blues exposed Carleton’s weak defence as running back Aaron Milton scored a touchdown less than 30 seconds after the opening whistle. The Blues matched their determined offensive performance with equally skilled defensive play, holding the Ravens back at each attempt to advance. The Blues continued to keep the Ravens at a standstill as the first quarter wound down, with UTM student and Blues kicker Eric Hewitson booting a 42-yard field goal to put the Blues up 10‒0.
As the second quarter began, the Blues didn’t let up but deployed two outstanding offensive plays, including a diving snag by Trevor Harvey that pushed U of T to the 20-yard line. Capitalizing on their hard work once again, the Blues’ quarterback Simon Nassar connected with return specialist Alex Pierzchalski to score the team’s second touchdown of the match and bring the team up 19‒0. The Blues didn’t seem to be fazed by anything the Ravens threw at them, shutting them down on defence time and again. And when an opportunity arose to make an offensive push, the Blues took advantage at the halfway mark by exploiting the Ravens’ clustering defensive play, as Pierzchalski made himself open to catch another pass from Nassar and dashed unhindered to the end zone, completing his second touchdown of the game and bringing the score to 26‒0 in the Blues’ favour.
The Ravens were persistent near the end of the second quarter, taking possession on a couple of fumbles by the Blues. Yet what looked like promise after a weak start ended in disappointment for the Ravens’ fans when the Blues used a stonewall defence to prevent the Ravens from inching any closer to victory. In a last-ditch effort, Ravens kicker Andrew Banerjee made a 17-yard field goal to finally put his team on the board, making the score 26‒3.
As the second half began, the Blues’ comfortable lead was extended when they piggybacked off a 30-yard rush by Milton, which put the team in scoring position. Pierzchalski scored his third touchdown of the game to put his team up 33‒3 at the start of the third quarter. Again the Ravens tried, and again their efforts went unrewarded. The Blues intercepted and took over near the midway mark of the third, which was the briefest possession they’d had so far in the game—a fumble allowed the Ravens to capitalize and they pushed to the 5-yard line, resulting in their first touchdown of the game from wide receiver Nathanial Behar in an 8-yard reception that brought the score to 33‒10.
But the Blues surged up again in the subsequent offensive possession to score yet another touchdown after Milton charged down the field, allowing placekicker Marcus Hobbs to carry the ball to the end zone.
At the start of the fourth quarter, the Blues eyed their second victory of the year while they attempted to hold Carleton off for the final 15 minutes. In a quarter marked by constant back-and-forth play, Hewitson scored a 26-yard field goal that seemed to rejuvenate the Blues—minutes later Nassar, who was named player of the game, connected with return specialist Lievi Noel for another touchdown to secure a commanding 50‒10 victory the Ravens were unable to overcome.
“We played more as a unit,” said Hewitson, a second-year UTM English major. “All our teams were clicking, and everyone executed their jobs, and we ultimately came through and put points on the board while defence kept points off the board.”
Hewitson was integral to the team’s success, and believes the team’s confidence and smart play gave them their edge. “But we didn’t take [Carleton] too lightly,” he added.
The Blues have only a 13-day rest period until their next game and only two games remaining in the season. Coach Greg Gary believes the team’s chances of success in the coming games are good. “I think now we’re playing against teams that are better opponents for where we’re at,” Gary says. “I think we’re becoming a good football team. I think York is really a serious opponent, so it feels like now we’re starting to have some meaningful games.”
Hewitson too is optimistic about the team’s chances in the next two games. “Waterloo is very [winnable] and York is quite an equal opponent to us,” he says. “That’s just going to challenge us.”
Gary and Hewitson both praised the play of Nassar, Milton, Harvey, and Pierzchalski, as well as Kevin Bradfield, who all had a part in giving the team its second victory.
The Varsity Blues will face York University on October 10, and will play the final game of the season at Varsity Stadium against the University of Waterloo on October 19.