The Concordia Stingers managed to hang in with one of the top teams in the country on Friday night, but fell just short.
The Sherbooke Vert et Or managed a late comeback against the Stingers, and the fifth-ranked team in the CIS escaped the Loyola campus with a 33-26 victory.
The defence controlled the game for most of the first two quarters as Sherbrooke took a 10-7 lead into halftime. Concordia’s lone first-half touchdown came after Reid Quest led his team 73 yards, and finished the drive with a two-yard touchdown pass to Kris Bastien.
In the second half, though, both teams’ offence awoke and lit up the scoreboard. The last eight minutes of the game, alone, saw four lead changes.
Early in the third quarter, IsmaÃ«l Bamba returned a punt 65 yards for a touchdown to give Sherbrooke the 17-7 lead, meanwhile drawing the ire of Stingers’ head coach Gerry McGrath.
“I was very disappointed in special teams tonight,” said McGrath. “Special teams can’t be overlooked in terms of importance. It was definitely a factor in this loss.”
A team safety put Sherbrooke ahead 19-7. However, Concordia kicked two field goals in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter from 37 and 22 yards to cut the deficit to 19-13.
Concordia took their first lead of the game, when Max Caron came up with a pick-six with 7:41 left in the game. Caron returned the interception 65 yards for the major.
The Vert et Or refused to go down easy and responded when quarterback JÃ©rÃ©mi Doyon-Roch threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to Simon Charbonneau, one of three touchdown receptions he would make this game.
With two and a half minutes left, it was Quest’s chance to lead his team to victory. He responded by throwing three completions, all to Bastien, who accounted for all the yardage on the quick 90-yard drive. Bastien caught passes of 14 and 68 yards, setting up an eight-yard touchdown pass to put Concordia ahead 26-25.
“When we got the ball late, I said we’re going to score,” said Quest. “As a quarterback, you need to have that confidence, or you’re already beaten.”
Unfortunately for the Stingers, though, Sherbrooke was also confident in their ability to make big plays late in a close game.
Starting from their 40-yard line, Sherbrooke marched down the field and with just 28 seconds left Doyon-Roch threw a three-yard touchdown pass to Charbonneau. Sherbrooke completed the two-point conversion and with so little time remaining in the game the Stingers were unable to make another miraculous comeback.
Despite the tough loss, there were many positives from the game. Quest made his first start at quarterback, covering for Terrance Morsink, who struggled in the first three games. Quest was called on many times, often successfully, as he completed 34 of 51 passes for 434 yards, two touchdowns and just one interception.
Though Quest’s numbers were impressive for his first start at the CIS level, the offence got off to a slow start in the game, which Quest believed ultimately cost the team.
“We’ve got to start faster,” he said. “We finally started sustaining drives later on, but we definitely could’ve scored a lot more points.”
Quest’s favourite target of the night was Bastien, who had a monster game with 11 catches, 189 yards and two touchdowns.
Quest’s performance was certainly a welcome sign as Concordia faces perennial powerhouse and defending national champion Laval next week for the second time this season.
Laval beat Concordia 36-8 in the first game of the season. The Stingers (2-2) will need all players to perform well next week if they hope to have any chance against the Rouge et Or (4-0).
Concordia plays in Quebec City against Laval Sunday, Oct. 2 at 1 p.m.