Carleton Ravens clinched the first playoff berth of their modern era—and the first since 1996—when they whipped the York Lions 52-0 Friday night in an Ontario University Athletics football game in Ottawa.
The win lifted Carleton’s record to 5-2, and moves them two points ahead of fifth-place Queen’s with two weeks remaining in the regular schedule. The Ravens join Western, 6-0, and Guelph and McMaster, both 5-1, as teams that have clinched post-season berths.
Ottawa’s other team, meanwhile, had its playoff aspirations dealt a devastating blow in Waterloo, where the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks delivered a 65-30 thrashing Friday night.
Of the teams still scrapping for one of the other two playoff spots, the Queen’s Golden Gaels, 4-2, are in the driver’s seat for one of them, with a game this Saturday at York, whose Lions are 1-6. A victory there clinches at least a quarter-final berth for the Gaels.
It’s a more uphill climb for the rest.
Though Laurier got back in the hunt with its win, improving to 3-3, the Hawks—no doubt deeply regretting a loss to Windsor last month—don’t have an easy finish, with games against McMaster and at Queen’s.
The prospects are even more bleak for Toronto and Ottawa, now tied at 2-4, whose best possible finish is 4-4. The Gee-Gees still have to play Western and they are now at a disadvantage if they happen to finish tied with Laurier.
Toronto can finish .500 by beating Waterloo and Ottawa in its last two games, but the Varsity Blues don’t hold the tie-breaker if the incredibly unlikely scenario evolves where they finish tied with Queen’s.
In just their third year back in the intercollegiate football fraternity, the Ravens quickly went about clinching their playoff spot Friday night, as Jesse Mills and Wilson Birch connected for two touchdowns in the first six minutes of the game. Carleton led 23-0 by the end of the first quarter and 40-0 at halftime.
York had just 177 yards of total offence, only 91 of it from 10 completed passes. The Ravens had one interception and they sacked Lions quarterback Eric Kimmerly five times for a collective loss of 23 yards.
Jahvari Bennett had 17 carries for 134 yards rushing for Carleton, as Birch and Kyle Vanwynseberghe each scored two touchdowns.
Nate Hamlin tied the modern Canadian Interuniversity Sport record with a 129-yard punt return for the Ravens’ final touchdown. Now the longest possible return, it matched the length of a return by Waterloo’s Ian Forde against Toronto in 2003.
(There have been two returns of 130 yards in the history of Canadian university football, but that’s no longer possible, since the end zones were reduced from 25 to 20 yards in 1986.)
In Waterloo, the Gee-Gees were not up to the challenge of enhancing their playoff prospects, surrendering 24 points in the second quarter as Laurier built a 41-10 halftime lead.
Laurier had 637 yards of offence, 342 yards of it rushing, 246 yards of it from 37 carries by Dillon Campbell. It was Campbell’s second-straight 200-yard game, and it was the fourth-best rushing performance in school history for the fifth-year senior, who now has three of those top four games.
Hawks quarterback Eric Morelli completed 20 of 24 attempts for 298 yards and a school-record six touchdowns. In just his third intercollegiate start, Morelli, who didn’t throw an interception, matched the single-game record of six TD passes, a total Bill Kubas achieved twice, in 1992 and again in 1994.
Rookie receiver Kurleigh Gittens, Jr., had seven catches for a career-best 141 yards for Laurier, while slotback Anthony Pizzuti became just the fourth player in WLU history to catch three TD passes, joining Andre Talbot, Joel Wright and Bryon Hickey in the school record book.
Carter Matheson, the freshman from Frontenac, had the first two catches of his inercollegiate career, including one for a two-point convert on Ottawa's last touchdown. Sydenham's Ben Fisher also had a pair of receptions in the losing cause.
Play resumes with five games Saturday. In addition to the Queen’s-York game, Toronto travels to Waterloo, Laurier entertains McMaster, Windsor visits Guelph and Western hosts Ottawa. Carleton has the week off.