Football team drops close game to McMaster, loses playoff spot

Blues unable to find the endzone, racking up fourth loss of the season

Football team drops close game to McMaster, loses playoff spot

The Varsity Blues football team dropped their game against McMaster University this Saturday, losing a 16–8 contest in a game with major playoff implications. The Blues dropped out of a playoff spot with two games left in the season before their next game against York University.

In Toronto’s first drive of the game, quarterback Clay Sequeria threw the ball into double coverage and was picked off. McMaster was unable to capitalize and went two and out on their ensuing drive. On Toronto’s next play, Sequeria fumbled a snap deep in the Blues end, which was recovered by McMaster and set them up in great field position.

McMaster went two and out again on their drive, and were forced to settle for a field goal. Toronto had to punt on their next drive, but the ball was dropped by the McMaster returner, and Toronto recovered the ball. Sequeria made a few plays to the endzone, one of them almost being a touchdown, but the receiver was ruled out of bounds. Toronto was forced to settle for a field goal, and tied the game 3–3.

In the second quarter, Blues linebacker Daniel Solaroli made an interception, but Toronto was unable to use the opportunity. McMaster got the ball back, and made a pass from around midfield into the endzone into double coverage for the touchdown. McMaster was also able to get another field goal to bring their lead up to 13–3 to end the half.

In the third quarter, the Blues were able to get another interception, this time defensive back Jamal Johnson, but they were unable to capitalize, as Sequeria was sacked multiple times. Sequeria faced immense pressure from the McMaster defence, which often resulted in a sack, or a rushed pass.

“We’ll have to look at what they were doing and check and see what we’re doing in protection and help [Sequeria] out a little bit,” Blues head coach Greg Marshall said in a postgame interview. “Obviously that’s the plan with everybody is to disrupt his timing, and we were doing a pretty good job the first few weeks. It seems like the last couple of weeks, they’ve shown us a couple things we need to adjust.”

At the beginning of the fourth quarter, McMaster was pinned deep in their own zone, and when they reached the third down, they opted to take the intentional safety to prevent Toronto from gaining good field position. In the next Toronto drive, they were able to hit a field goal to bring it to a one score game at 16–8.

Toronto would have one more drive to tie up the game, but they were unable to do so, even with a few good looks in the endzone. McMaster was able to run out the clock and end the game.

“Our guys played well in all areas,” Marshall continued. “That was a good football game. Not the usual high-scoring affair, but it was more of a defensive slug fest. And there [were] a lot of guys making a lot of plays. It just happened to be on the defensive side for both teams.”

Nikola Stakic on leading the men’s soccer team

The Blues captain talks soccer, friendships, balancing school

Nikola Stakic on leading the men’s soccer team

The Varsity Blues men’s soccer team is currently tied with rival Ryerson Rams for second place in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) standings. The team holds a 7-1-2 record, only trailing the Carleton Ravens who have a perfect 10–0 record. This year, Blues captain Nikola Stakic is looking to lead his team to the OUA Championship.

Growing up, Stakic was immersed in soccer. His love of the sport began when he was five. “I started playing for Scarborough Blizzard house league,” Stakic said in an interview with The Varsity. Similar to a lot of athletes, Stakic comes from an athletic background. “My dad, well he’s from Bosnia. He played professionally back there and when he was growing up. And my brother played a little bit.”

Being able to play for the University of Toronto is like being at home for Stakic, who grew up in the Scarborough Bluffs area. When he was younger, Stakic used to play at Birchmount Stadium with his father and brother.

Stakic, who plays the centre midfielder position, started out as a centre back when he was younger. When asked about players he idolized growing up, Stakic told The Varsity that he watched Gerard Piqué of FC Barcelona.

The transition from high school to playing for one of Canada’s top universities was exciting for Stakic. He was originally part of the Toronto FC Academy, the youth development program for the Toronto Football Club. “The coach of the Varsity Blues at the time was the coach at Toronto FC as well. So we linked together and he gave me an opportunity to play for U of T,” Stakic explains.

When asked about any pressure coming into the Varsity Blues, Stakic said it was a smooth process. “I knew a lot of the players already here, so it was an easy transition.”

Stakic is currently in the kinesiology program at U of T. He enjoys the freedom that his program gives him to explore his passion for soccer within his academic life. “It’s very athlete driven, the program,” Stakic told The Varsity.

On the correlation between the program and being a varsity athlete, the Blues captain noted that “everything they teach us, I can kind of incorporate into what I do on a daily basis, being on the varsity team. I kind of link what we’re learning in class, and take it on the field and in the gym.”

Although Stakic enjoys his program, he also mentioned the challenges that come with being both a student and an athlete. Stakic is currently in fourth year, so he has many years of experience dealing with tight schedules. “Keeping high grades and balancing that with soccer, it’s really hard.”

Like a lot of students, Stakic has classes most days of the week. “[I’ve] got Friday off [class] but we train Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday,” Stakic explains. “And then usually you have two games during the weekend.”

To ease the stress of being a student athlete, Stakic focuses on having fun as well. “I enjoy going out with my friends,” Stakic told The Varsity. “I like video games too. I play a lot of Call of Duty [and] Fortnite with my teammates.”

Being the team captain carries a lot of meaning to Stakic. He acknowledges what it means to be a leader both on and off the field. “I like to set an example for the younger players coming in, for the other players on the team,” Stakic said. “You know, to work hard, the ethic and the bond that we build. Make sure that’s the key of being a Blue.”

Stakic also remarked on just how rewarding playing for the Blues has been for him. “Just the brotherhood, the family that you build in the change room, on the field. You know, I’ve made such great friends from the coaching staff [and] the training staff, and these relationships are going to carry on for the rest of my life,”

“We spend so much time together, and a lot of us have played together for years, even before U of T. So we all have each other’s backs. We look out for one another.”

When asked about any goals for the rest of the season, Stakic focused on the team specifically. “Currently we’re tied for second. So you know, push, hopefully get that top two finish, so we can have a bye-week,” Stakic said. But similar to most athletes, Stakic has his eyes set on bringing home a banner. “Our goal is to win the OUA Championship,” Stakic said.

“After I’m done here, [I’ll] hopefully sign a contract somewhere, with [the Canadian Premier League]. Hoping to get into one of those teams,” Stakic told The Varsity. “But if not, then continue with schooling. Maybe do teacher’s college. Do more coaching for sports.”

Blues football narrowly drop a 37–33 decision to the Queen’s Gaels

Toronto secures sixth-place standing in OUA

Blues football narrowly drop a 37–33 decision to the Queen’s Gaels

It was a constant chase for the lead for the Blues football team, who fought valiantly until the end against the Queen’s University Gaels in their fourth match of the season. This score puts an end to the Blues’ two-game winning streak.

Despite the result, Toronto made some standout plays against the Gaels, a team that they have not had a regular season victory over since 1975. With a hefty 11-point lead out the gate for the Gaels, Blues quarterback and U of T’s East-West Bowl representative Clay Sequeira narrowed the lead with a six-yard pass to wide receiver Michael Lehmann to finish a 75-yard drive.

The first quarter also saw some impressive defensive efforts, with an exceptionally notable interception by linebacker Kalvin Zhou at the Blues’ own 37-yard line.

The second and third quarters saw more points for the Gaels than the Blues, with impressive plays on their offence: Richard Burton of the Gaels secured a seven-yard touchdown reception, and Queen’s kept this ball rolling well into the third quarter. The Blues were not, however, handing it over easily. With multiple incomplete passes and near-touchdowns in the Queen’s endzone, it was clear that Toronto was putting it all out on the field.

The Blues came out strong in the fourth quarter, with a connection between Sequeria and Nolan Lovegrove over 18 yards for a touchdown to further close the gap. The game had a nail-biting finish, but, in the end, the Blues fell to the Gaels. Despite the loss, quarterback Sequeria is still leading the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) in passing with an average of 400.5 yards per game. Lovegrove also secured the number-one spot in the OUA rankings for receiving, averaging 115.8 yards per game and five touchdowns.

The Blues will be in Ottawa September 28 to face off against the Carleton Ravens.

Varsity Blues Football vs. Queens University

Varsity Blues football team snap long losing streak in home opener

Quarterback Clay Sequeira dominates in front of a full crowd

Varsity Blues football team snap long losing streak in home opener

The Toronto Varsity Blues football team snapped a 15-game losing streak last Sunday in a blowout win against the Windsor Lancers in front of a full-capacity Varsity Stadium crowd. Quarterback Clay Sequeira was the standout player of the match, throwing for 464 yards, scoring six touchdowns, and boasting zero interceptions. 

In the first drive of the game, the Blues drove down the field, but were forced to settle for a field goal. In Windsor’s ensuing drive, quarterback Sam Girard was sacked 1.5 yards from the goal line, and the Lancers opted to take the intentional safety to give the Blues an early 5–0 lead. After Toronto was forced to punt, Windsor scored a field goal to make the score 5–3. 

In the second quarter, Windsor tacked on another field goal to take a 6–5 lead. The next drive saw Sequeira take his offence down the field, and complete it with a 39-yard touchdown pass to receiver Will Corby for the first touchdown of the game. 

Windsor then came right back in the ensuing drive to score their first touchdown of the game, taking a 13–12 lead. With time winding down for the first half, the Blues marched down the field in their next drive, and with a 22-yard pass to receiver Michael Lehmann, made the score 19–13 at the end of the half. 

Along with his brilliant passing performance, Sequeira also lead the team in rushing, going for 72 yards in nine attempts in the first half. 

“We just took what they gave us,” Sequeira said in a post-game interview. “Our offence pretty much adapted to what they showed us all week. And so if they’re going to give us one thing, we’re going to keep adjusting. That’s the nature of our offence. We’ll adjust to whatever we get. So the reason why we ran football so much is because the looks were favourable.”

In the third quarter, Windsor sacked Sequeira and forced the fumble, and on the first play made a 38-yard pass down the field. Windsor made it to first and goal on the one-yard line, but Toronto’s defence came up big, forcing Windsor to settle for a field goal. 

On the ensuing Toronto drive, the Blues offence went two and out. During the Blues punting play on third down, the snap went over the kicker’s head and was recovered by Windsor to give them the ball on Toronto’s 22-yard line. Toronto’s defence succeeded again, with defensive back Tolu Ahmed making an interception which stopped Windsor from scoring. 

After these momentum-shifting plays by the defence, the floodgates opened for the Blues in the fourth. It started with a game-high 79-yard touchdown pass from Sequeira to receiver Nolan Lovegrove. Toronto never looked back, with Sequeira scoring three more touchdowns, and running back Liam Cousineau making a one-yard run for the final touchdown of the game, bringing the score to 54–26 for Toronto. 

“I think people see now how exciting Varsity football is, and I’m expecting to see more and more crowds like this as the home games go on because, as you can see, we feed off it and hopefully we’ll see more [wins],” Sequeira said about the full-capacity crowd. 

When asked how he felt about breaking the Blues’ long losing streak, Sequeira said, “It’s the best feeling in the world. There’s really nothing like it. I’m still really in shock. But honestly, we shouldn’t be content. We shouldn’t be satisfied with this. This is the expectation. Now we should put our best foot forward. We should continue to win. This should be the norm.”

Varsity Blues Football home opener vs. Windsor

Opinion: The beautiful game? Not anymore

An account of racism in soccer

Opinion: The beautiful game? Not anymore

It was a chilly evening in London on December 8 — the setting for one of the biggest clashes of the English Premier League, between Chelsea and Manchester City. But when Manchester City’s star winger Raheem Sterling went to the byline for a throw-in, he was meted out abuse by a fan. An unapologetic, gory insult to his skin colour. That’s when Sterling decided it was enough. 

“The way they were looking at me, I had to see where all this anger was coming from,” he said. “I was listening in to hear what they were saying.” He said he dismissed it immediately: “Nah, that can’t be what I heard.”

This is not an isolated incident either. Danny Rose, an English defender for Tottenham Hotspur, expressed looking forward to retirement, as the politics of racism are frustrating. “There is so much politics and whatever in football and I just can’t wait to see the back of it, to be honest.” Players are being called ‘monkeys,’ and obscene chants and gestures are directed at them for no other reason than the colour of their skin.

What’s worse is that media outlets and sports broadcasters shine a negative light on young Black players. Sterling, 24, is a successful player who earns as much as, or even more than, most of his white contemporaries. However, news reports circulate showcasing him as a flashy, brash youth with no regard for his hard-earned wealth. The truth is, he owns a single car, and his partner owns one more, like millions of white, suburban families in the UK and around the world. “When people are making the public believe you are a character you aren’t, that is hurtful, and it is degrading,” the young star said. 

Solidarity among players, including the white ones, is a step in the right direction, though this doesn’t happen often, with Moise Kean’s treatment serving as the prime example. An 18-year-old player with Juventus, he was faced with racist chants in a match against Cagliari. He took a leaf out of Sterling’s book and raised his outstretched arms to the opposition fans. This didn’t go well with his teammates, especially Leonardo Bonucci, a stalwart of Juventus and the Italian national team, who said the blame lay “50-50” with fans and players, especially if the fans are taunted. 

He was widely condemned for these comments, and later backtracked on them, but the damage was already done. A young player was left alone and shamed by his mentor on the team. The Italian Football Federation has confirmed that Cagliari and their fans will face no disciplinary action.

After England’s game against Montenegro, when many players of African origin were abused, Tottenham Hotspur’s Danny Rose said, “It’s sad, but when countries only get fined what I probably spend on a night out in London, then what do you expect?” This problem runs far deeper than stringent, superficial measures. Unless it is acknowledged, studied, and systematically purged by FIFA, UEFA, and other bodies, it will fester underneath, robbing the essence of the game.

 

Editor’s Note (August 27, 3:49 pm): An earlier version of the article incorrectly stated that the December 8 match was between Chelsea and Manchester United. In fact, it was between Chelsea and Manchester City.

Greater risk of heart attacks the day after Super Bowl, cardiologists find

Psychological stress, increased consumption of alcohol and salty foods are possible causes

Greater risk of heart attacks the day after Super Bowl, cardiologists find

The broadcast of the Super Bowl has been linked to a heightened risk of cardiac events in Ontario, including heart attacks and heart failures, according to a recent U of T-affiliated study.

The NFL’s annual championship game, the Super Bowl, is frequently the most viewed television spectacle in Canada each year.

Using data drawn from health care records in Ontario, the researchers analyzed the number of emergency department visits and hospitalizations for heart attacks, heart failures, and atrial fibrillation — rapid, irregular heartbeat rhythm — over 10 years of Super Bowl weeks from 2008 to 2017.

The analysis showed that on the Monday following each Super Bowl, there is a marked increased risk of heart attacks in Ontario. For patients younger than 65, the risk of heart failure also spiked on the following Monday.

Interestingly, the researchers did not find a statistically significant increase in the relative risk of heart attacks, heart failures, and irregular heart rhythms on the day of the Super Bowl.

Possible explanations for the spike in cardiac events

Dr. Sheldon Singh, a cardiologist and cardiac electrophysiologist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, wrote to The Varsity that this finding may arise from the complex relationship between stress and cardiac events.

“Prior work has shown that stress can have residual effects with [heart attacks] occurring hours after a clearly identified stressor,” wrote Singh.

“In addition… there may also be issues with patients delaying when they seek medical care — such as ignoring symptoms when they occur hoping they will pass, misinterpreting symptoms, or not wanting to disrupt any social gathering they are at.”

“It’s also important to remember that Super Bowls occur late on Sunday evenings,” noted Singh, “so it would not be unexpected to see an increase in events on [the] following Monday.”

Psychological stress experienced by spectators, as well as an increased consumption of alcohol and salty foods are further factors that may contribute to the amplified risk of cardiac events during the Super Bowl.

However, Singh added that there may be other contributing factors that the study failed to identify due to its design.

“Our work is at a population level, not individual level, which makes it challenging to tease out the exact mechanism of the observed association,” wrote Singh.

Previous studies have shown that heart rates of Montreal Canadiens’ fans increase during hockey games. A spike in cardiac events have also been reported during FIFA World Cup soccer matches by other studies.

Singh wrote that it’s possible to generalize the findings for Super Bowl viewers to those of other sporting events, but it’s important to remember the distinction between a single critical match versus a series when making such assumptions.

Stress levels are more concentrated when the outcomes of a championship, such as the Super Bowl, depend on a single game.

However, the stress experienced during other types of sporting events, such as with hockey or baseball, is generally more distributed because the final outcome often depends on the best of a series.

“We have to appreciate that [increased] cardiac events also have been reported with single catastrophic or stressful events, such as severe snowstorms… earthquakes, and other natural disasters,” wrote Singh.

Health care providers may be able to better plan for a spike in admissions for cardiac-related events around the Super Bowl each year using the study’s findings.

Moreover, Singh believes that educating individuals on the association between emotional stress and dietary indiscretion on one’s overall health will have important implications for public health.

“Given the popularity of the Super Bowl, there is an opportunity for health care practitioners to reach a broad segment of the population, which may have impacts not only during the Super Bowl, but with other events as well,” wrote Singh.

“I am hopeful the general public will access information from our study and public health agencies use this to launch health care campaigns promoting healthy lifestyles.”