While the league record of the University of Toronto Varsity Blues football team is indisputably abysmal, they managed to garner their fourth win in three years against the York Lions over the weekend.
The Blues took on the Lions in the 41st annual Red and Blue Bowl at Varsity Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Despite hoards of fans who attended to cheer on the visitors, the Blues squeaked past the competition 24–19 .
It was at the 39th Red and Blue Bowl in 2008, that Blues crushed the Lions 58–7, and took their first Argos Cup since 1995. Last season, although by a considerably smaller margin, the Blues did it again, and walked away 45–27.
After the first quarter started off as a back-and-forth battle for field position, the game heated up quickly minutes into the second frame.
The Blues took control and were on the scoreboard almost immediately. Blues quarterback Andrew Gillis fought off Lions defenders and drove the ball into the end zone for the first touchdown of the game.
It seemed as if York might be on the road to recovery after kicker Ramsey Aburaneh scored 33 yard field goal, but it was the 49-yard run and subsequent touchdown from Blues rookie running back, who according to Gillis is “a hell of an athlete,” Aaron Milton, that really set the tone for the second half.
Milton said that the Blues had been “working on that play all week.”
The third quarter was a juggling contest, complete with multiple fumbles and back-to-back turnovers coming so quickly it was nearly impossible to keep count. But with just two minutes to go in the frame, Gillis got the Blues on the board again, and ran in another touchdown that brought the score to 21–3 going into the final quarter.
Unwilling to go home without a touchdown to their name, the Lions made a comeback as the clock ticked away in the fourth. Five minutes in, Lions running back Dallas Smith entered the end zone off a two yard run.
Although they conceded both a safety and a rouge to the Blues, and choked in the face of the perfectly lined up touchdown, it was the Lions who dominated the final minutes of play.
Lions quarterback Nick Coutu connected with slotback Alex Bugdahn on a 41-yard pass under two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
Much to the relief of the coaches who had to watch their team give away 16 points in 15 minutes, the Lions last ditch attempt fell short, and the game wrapped up with a final score of 24–19.
The Lions gave up four interceptions, and two of those four were made by Waterloo transfer and player of the game, Hugo Lopez. To earn his title, Lopez made an astounding eight solo tackles.
Blues passing was 16 for 25, and totaled a meager 151 yards compared to the Lions 320.
But for the Blues, who accumulated 180 running yards, it wasn’t about the passing.
“We thought we could run the ball on [the Lions], and it worked out well for us,” said Milton. “We want to be able to run the ball this year because we’ve struggled in the past. It’s a big effort for us to get the running game going and we’ve got a great quarterback in Gillis who can also run the ball.”
Gillis added, “The last few weeks we haven’t really been running the ball that well so we wanted to establish a running game early.”
Both Milton and Gillis acknowledged that the Lions have some solid players on their roster, and are not to be underestimated.
“I knew that they were going to come out pretty heavy,” said Gillis. “But we came out lucky today and executed better than they did.”