As the clouds hung over Varsity Stadium in downtown Toronto, the Varsity Blues took on the York Lions in the annual Red and Blue Bowl game. Both teams came into the game looking to kick-start their seasons after going winless in their first two games.
The opening minutes of the first quarter were very back-and-forth, with neither team able to get their offence going. Possession changed multiple times and both teams were penalized repeatedly. Things looked bleak for the Blues when York’s Hussein Hazime registered his league-leading fourth sack on Blues quarterback Simon Nassar. However, U of T continued to push and were able to open the scoring halfway through the quarter with a 9-yard dash by Lukas Gavac. The Varsity Blues kept the pressure on York, and Gavac found himself on the scoreboard again three and a half minutes later when he ran the ball into the end zone from 37 yards out. Toronto was relentless and managed to score again with a minute left in the quarter when Kevin Bradfield found a hole in the defence and ran 47 yards to the end zone to end the quarter with a 21-0 lead.
U of T kept up its inspired offence during the second quarter, and Gavac kept his hot streak going by scoring his third touchdown of the game after a minute and a half of play to give Toronto a 28-0 lead. Toronto sustained the pressure and nearly scored again two minutes later when Bradfield was taken down four yards outside of the Lions’ end zone after a 45-yard run. Despite their good positioning, Toronto failed to score after a spirited York defence blocked Gavac from tying the Argo Cup record of four touchdowns on the first two downs, and wide receiver Michael Kanopoulos could not get a hold of the ball in the end zone on the third down, forcing a turnover. Nevertheless, the Varsity Blues tasted blood and would not be denied with seven minutes remaining, as Ashton Rochester punched the ball in from one yard out to put the Blues up 35-0. York’s offence began to look more organized after that, but although they earned several first downs, they could not keep possession in their half of the field. But Toronto refused to let this faze them or to reduce the pressure. With three minutes remaining in the half, Eric Hewitson kicked a field goal, and then York were forced to concede a safety to give Toronto a hefty 40-0 lead at the half.
The Blues’ foot was on the pedal, and they didn’t let up when the teams returned after the half. This is a football program that has been trending upward over the past couple seasons and the team looked to finally come into their own, tapping into a previously missing ruthlessness and swagger that allowed them complete control over their opponent. It was no surprise, either, that U of T’s next touchdown came from Gavac, his fourth touchdown of the game and the last score of a quarter that ended with the Blues’ 50-0 lead.
York was forced into conceding two early safeties during the fourth quarter, which Toronto followed with back-to-back touchdowns from first-year running back Divonte Smith to make it 68-0. Toronto held strong in defence and forced York into a final safety with a minute remaining in the game. The game closed out quietly and the crowd gave a resounding cheer when the final whistle was blown to give Toronto a 70-0 win that secured the 45th annual Argo Cup.
The victory was felt by both the players and the staff of the Varsity Blues, but they aren’t getting ahead of themselves. “[This was our] first win of the season, we’re just getting started,” says Stone Sousa, a first-year student at St. George. “We definitely have excitement growing in the locker room now—the program is moving in the right direction. Now we just have to take it week at a time, one play at a time, and work hard every day of practice, and hopefully we can get a win next week.”
When asked about tying the Argo Cup record of four touchdowns, second-year criminology major and UTM student Lukas Gavac didn’t hesitate to praise the rest of the squad. “It was a great team effort; we came together as a team today,” he said. “I was really satisfied with the team performance, because I couldn’t do anything without them. We showed that we had more potential than in the first two games. We really believed in what we were doing and we’re more confident now that we can see what we can do.”
“The most important thing is to try to build off of this [win],” added head coach Greg Gary. “We have to try and just get that next win, as opposed to just thinking about what the record is going to be in the end. Today we had a lot of success doing a lot of things, but next week we’re going to have to execute a little better if we’re going to get the win.”
The Toronto Varsity Blues currently sit eighth in the OUA standings, and are looking to repeat their win next week in London against the Western Mustangs.