With 17,828 in attendance at the SkyDome on Saturday, Nov. 22, the Saint Mary’s and Laval university footabll teams almost scored the least amount of points ever in a Vanier Cup game.
Going into the 39th Vanier Cup, the national university football championship, the heavily favoured Laval Rouge et Or were expected to crush the defending champs, Saint Mary’s. But this certainly wasn’t the case on Saturday as Laval narrowly came out with a 14-7 victory over the Huskies. This is Laval’s second Vanier title.
Saint Mary’s was looking to defend their title as the best university football team in the country for an unprecedented third time. But their quest for the Cup was not meant to be for the Huskies, as Laval proved the better and more experienced team.
The story of the game was not the the play of the game itself. It was the boisterous crowd from Laval that ended up helping their own team. The Laval fans made it so loud at SkyDome, that Saint Mary’s was unable to get a rhythm, and as a result the disciplined Huskies were called for four procedure penalties.
The first half saw both teams come out tight. Predictions pegged Laval’s offence rolling over Saint Mary’s defense, and after the first minutes of play, they appeared to be right. Laval, on their opening drive of the game, moved the ball effectively and got a field goal to take an early 3-0 lead. They would stay ahead of Saint Mary’s for the rest of the afternoon.
The key to the game for both teams was special teams play. Both the Rouge et Or and the Huskies conceded safeties during the game to wrangle their way out of lousy field position. At the end of the first half the score was a pitifully low 3-2, as the teams were locked in a defensive battle.
The only touchdown of the game came in the third quarter when Laval quarterback Mathieu Bertrand connected with receiver Jean Frediric Tremblay to give the Rouge et Or a lead to secure them the 38th Vanier Cup.
What hurt Saint Mary’s throughout the game was the inconsistent play of their quarterbacks, Steve Panella and Bill Robinson. Panella and Robinson were unable to move the offence effectively all day.
It was defense that kept both teams in the game. Scarborough native Sebastian Clovis, Saint Mary’s starting free safety, played a superb game. Blanketing the Laval receivers, Clovis denied any chances for the Rouge et Or to break open big plays. After the game he commented on the loss, saying “it hurts when you want something so bad, but every team must rebuild and this was our year. Mark my words though – we will be back.”
St. Mary’s head coach Blake Nill added to those comments by saying that “we just could not get the offence going. But I am proud of this team-we proved we belong, and we will be back.”
México native Jerónimo Huerta-Flores, Laval’s starting running back, was named MVP of the game after rushing for 85 yards on 17 attempts. As reporters mobbed him, he said “that we were confident in ourselves, and at half time we realized that we were beating ourselves, by dropping passes and making mistakes. I am happy about winning the MVP award, but this award is a credit to my teammates.”
Last night Laval University was partying in honour of the victory, as well they should. It was the fans on Saturday at SkyDome that brought the game a buzz that truly explains what Canadian university football is all about.
Photograph by Simon Turnbull