(Photo: Valerie Wutti)
OTTAWA, ON — The CIS ninth-ranked Carleton Ravens football team took care of business in their home opener against fourth-ranked Western on Sunday evening, defeating the powerhouse Mustangs, 38-31, in front of a packed crowd at MNP Park.
With plenty of buzz surrounding the top ten meeting coming in, the game definitely did not disappoint, as fans cheered on the Ravens to one of the biggest wins in program history.
"We just came in and did what we had to do. That was it," said Ravens quarterback Jesse Mills (Halifax, NS), who threw for 341 yards and 2 TDs in the game.
Head coach Steve Sumarah could not have been more proud of his team following the exceptional performance.
"It was one of those opportunities that we almost let slip away. We showed a lot of character tonight and a lot of fight, and I'm really proud of our guys for that, because after last week, I wasn't sure what we had in us, but boy, we dug deep today."
Momentum was key in helping the Ravens come out on top over the Mustangs.
Carleton started the game on defence, but stopped Western in their tracks in the opening drive. On the ensuing punt, All-Canadian return specialist Tunde Adeleke (Ottawa, ON) received the ball and dodged his way through the Western opposition on his way to an 85-yard TD return, and just like that, the Ravens found themselves up 7-0 only 1:28 into the first quarter.
Mills explained, "[Our first touchdown] was huge for setting the momentum. That's one thing for these big games; as soon as you have the momentum on your side, and can keep it rolling, that's huge." Mills set a career-high with 28 completions (28 for 35), and no interceptions.
Everything seemed to be clicking for the Ravens – their special teams were working together, the offense was making big plays and moving the sticks, and the defense was playing a stellar game as well. The solid Ravens defence would hold an experienced Western offence for the remainder of the first quarter, and would force the Mustangs to take a safety early in the second to make it 9-0 for the Ravens.
Running back Jayde Rowe (Toronto, ON), who played in his first Ravens home game at MNP Park on Sunday, was nothing short of amazing. He scored two touchdowns for the Ravens in the second quarter, including a dynamic 74-yard score to put the Ravens up 17-0. Mike Domagala (St. Catharines, ON) would kick for the extra point on each Rowe TD.
The Ravens would find themselves leading 24-0 over a Mustangs team that established themselves as the highest scoring unit in CIS regular season history last year with 494 points and 64 touchdowns.
After a long first half, the Western Mustangs finally found their way onto the scoreboard. They would get two TDs in the last three minutes of the first to cut into the deficit. The Ravens entered the second half leading 24-14 over the Mustangs.
Western returned from the halftime looking like a vastly improved opponent. The Mustangs pounded the ball on the ground, exhausting the Ravens defence with a barrage of athletic backfield weapons, eventually tying up the score 24-24 going into the fourth quarter.
Western's dynamic, All-Canadian running back Alex Taylor would get another Western touchdown to give them their first lead of the night. Carleton trailed 31-24.
With 5:43 left in the game, Jesse Mills would connect with receiver Nate Behar (London, ON) on a 15-yard TD pass to level the game once more. Carleton 31, Western 31.
Following a strong defensive series from the Ravens, Carleton marched the ball downfield and into a scoring position. In field goal range but looking for more, Mills found receiver Wilson Birch (Niagara Falls, ON) in the end zone with a 12-yard strike for another Ravens touchdown and a 38-31 advantage with 2:45 left in the game.
Western put up a fight, taking the ball all the way down to the Ravens goal line, but Carleton's defence held strong and stopped the Mustangs on a desperation third-and-goal attempt to take possession of the ball and run the clock out.
"We really had to just go out and perform," said head coach Steve Sumarah. "That's all we were looking for. We kind of beat that in them all week; worry about fundamentals, worry about just trying to execute […] The last two times we played Western, they scored, and then scored, and scored, and scored, and scored. We just had no momentum and at least tonight, we got some momentum. We lost it, but we dug deep and found a way to get it back. I'm extremely proud of these guys."
Source: Carleton Ravens