The Varsity Blues football team fell in a heartbreaking 36–24 loss to the York Lions, in the 43rd annual Red and Blue Bowl on Saturday in their final home game of the year.
The Blues had a 26–16 head-to-head record against York heading into the game, including a four-game win streak dating back to 2008. U of T was sadly unable to retain the Argo Cup for a fifth consecutive time, and it was awarded to the Lions in a post game ceremony headlined by Toronto Argonauts legend Nick Volpe and current Argos players Andre Durie and Ricky Foley.
In the books, a loss is a loss, and there are no points for effort and no consideration given to how close the final score is. But for fans, the game was a loss full of optimism.
The Blues went into the half down 30–9, their points coming off a combination of 23-yard and 32-yard Andrew Lomasney field goals, two safeties, and a rouge. There were few positives in the opening 30 minutes of play.
Heading into the locker room at the half, York had all the momentum on their sideline, with more than double the number of total offensive yards and 18 first downs to the Blues’ six.
As U of T desperately tried to regroup and adjust over the half, Blues fans were given the opportunity to win $5,000.
The first annual Canadian mobile phone throwing championship — sponsored by Mobilicity — is inspired by the recent World Mobile Phone Throwing Championships in Finland. In that competition, the champion set a 101.46 metre world record. Canadian women’s javelin Olympian Liz Gleadle was on hand to share some expert hurdling tips with the finalists. The final three competitors vying for the championship title and $5,000 took to the field during the half. The winner, Jeremiah, threw his phone an astonishing 85 yards — more than 30 yards further than his competition — and left the game with the title.
The Blues, possibly inspired by the arm strength of Jeremiah, came out of the locker room with a new enthusiasm and offense that suddenly seemed able to push the ball downfield.
U of T started the half with a stellar return by Kevin Bradfield, who brought the ball to the Blues 51-yard line. Bradfield, last week’s player of the game, has been one of the few shining lights on the team all season, and ended the game with 170 return yards.
A few possessions later, Simon Nassar came in at quarterback to replace Richard Quittenton, who finished the afternoon going 6-for-13 for 113 yards and two interceptions.
“Simon’s had success. I think Simon’s a really good relief pitcher,” head coach Greg Gary said. “When he comes in he makes plays. I’m not sure that would have happened in the beginning. I think that what Rich was under was a little different. Teams change up a little bit and [York] changed up in the second half once we started to get them a little bit, and that gave us some openings.”
Nassar’s entrance infused the Blues with new energy.
U of T defensive back David Green intercepted a shovel pass from York quarterback Myles Gibbon, and the offense, taking over possession at the York 40-yard line immediately began to move.
Nassar threw deep to Paul de Pass along the far sideline, and although the pass fell incomplete, flags were thrown for defensive pass interference and the Blues moved down the field. After failing to complete the next two passes, the team was forced to settle for a field goal attempt. However, the Blues, desperately seeking a way back into the game, opted to fake the field goal and attempted to convert on the third down. Marcus Hobbs, third-string quarterback and Blues kicker, attempted a pass that fell incomplete, but the Lions were once again flagged this time for pass interference and the ball was placed at the one-yard line. The next play, the Blues punched it into the end zone and made it a ball game.
“We were thinking that we were going to try to get a touchdown then,” Gary explained. “We were in a position where we didn’t think that three points were going to be enough, which obviously it wasn’t.”
U of T was able to force another major off a Ashton Nelson nine-yard run. But a Kyle Exume touchdown with just over a minute left sealed the York victory and halted all hope of a Blues comeback.
“I have to be honest, it’s just one of those days where York just sort of did it up early, from the very beginning they got us. And once a team goes up like that it’s tough to come back,” said Gary. “We did a lot of good things in the second half, but when it came to the final moment where we had our chance we didn’t get it done.”
The Blues travel to Queen’s next weekend with their playoff hopes unbelievably still alive. A win could allow the team entrance into the OUA post-season.
“As ridiculous as it sounds, we still have an opportunity to make the playoffs, so if we beat Queen’s we’re in the playoffs,” said an optimistic Gary.
There’s still hope.
“It’s through the back door but we’ll take it. We’re going to plan well.”
The Blues, who last made the playoffs in 1995, are looking to squeeze in this year as they head into Kingston to face the Gaels.
The top six teams in the OUA advance to the playoffs.
The playoff picture has begun to come into focus. The number one ranked McMaster Mustangs enter the final game of the regular season with a perfect 7–0 record and have secured home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Guelph Gryphons defeated the Queen’s Gaels, who are also advancing to the playoffs, over the weekend to secure a second place seed in the OUA playoffs and a first-round bye to the semi-finals.
In order to join these teams, the Blues must come out of Kingston victorious and ask for a little help. U of T currently sits at ninth in the division and would need Ottawa, York, and Laurier to all lose their respective games if they hope to advance.
Relying on other teams to fail is not the position that the Blues hoped to find themselves in, but it’s still hope, so the team is preparing for the Gaels with optimism.