The Concordia Stingers looked to a pair of All-Canadians to lift them to an 18-15 season-opening win against the Universite de Sherbrooke Vert et Or on Friday night at Loyola Field.
Patrick Donovan, last year’s top defensive player in the CIS, had 9.5 tackles and an interception on the last play of the game. All-Canadian kicker Warren Kean had four field goals, including the game winner with 12:52 left in the game.
The Stingers opened the game with scores on their first three possessions to open up a 13-0 lead, but needed Kean’s last field goal to break a 15-15 tie in the fourth quarter.
After forcing Sherbrooke to punt on their first possession, Scott Syvret needed just three plays to get the Stingers 57 yards for the touchdown. After an incomplete pass, he found Nick Saikaley who caught the ball despite three flags for pass interference, which set up a 20-yard pass from Syvret to Andre Hamilton for Hamilton’s first CIS touchdown.
The Stingers, despite taking a 13-0 lead, left points on the board. Dropped passes by receivers on second down forced the Stingers into taking field goals instead of extending drives on their next two possessions.
“Our receivers dropped a lot of balls [Friday],” said Stingers head coach Gerry McGrath. “Our quarterbacks made good decisions but I thought our receivers were uncharacteristically very subpar. We were a little sloppier than I would have liked to have been,” he said.
The Vert et Or didn’t pass midfield until their final possession of the first quarter, which culminated in an 11 yard touchdown pass from rookie Jean-Phillipe Shoiry to Alexandre Poirier.
Sherbrooke cut the lead to three when Alain Dorval, who is also one of the two members of the Vert et Or running attack, hit an 18-yard field goal with less than 10 minutes remaining in the second quarter after a big defensive stand by the Stingers.
After the teams traded safeties to gain field position in the third quarter, Dorval hit another field goal, this time from 24-yards out, to tie the game.
Mistakes were the story of the second half for both teams. Twice in the half, a Concordia interception was followed up, on the next play, by a Sherbrooke interception.
Concordia failed to put points on the board in another way. Early in the fourth quarter, Syvret’s pass in the end zone was almost intercepted by a group of Vert et Or, and on the next play, Syvret had Saikaley wide open on the sideline, but a sure-touchdown was not to be when the pass was off target and dropped. The mistakes didn’t hurt the Stingers though, as the dropped pass would set-up the 20 yard field goal by Kean.
“We drove the ball fine,” Syvret said, “but then we had fumbles and interceptions and dropped balls. Whenever one person did something right, another person did something wrong. On one play it was the receiver who didn’t do something, or I did something wrong. Nothing fell into place,” he continued.
Late in the fourth quarter was the defence’s turn to shine and essentially win the game for the Stingers. Mark Kang’s first career sack forced a punt with 2:30 left in the final quarter. After a Concordia punt, Sherbrooke had one final chance from their own 12 yard line and 47 seconds remaining. Kang pressured Shoiry on the first play, forcing a bad throw. Sherbrooke ended up with one final play on the Concordia 54 yard line.
It was just not meant to be. The snap went over the head of the rookie quarterback, who chased it down, and before getting manhandled by the Stingers defence, threw it up. There were only red Concordia jerseys around the ball and fittingly the defensive captain, Donovan, came up with the ball.
“The first quarter we played great, but in the second quarter we started making some mistakes,” Donovan said. “But they are a good team. This conference is not separated into a top-three and bottom-three. On any given day one team can beat another,” he continued.
-Rob Mackay played two series for the Stingers, and expect that to happen in every game. “Rob is a very good quarterback,” said McGrath, who considers Mackay an indispensable part of the team.
-Scott Syvret finished 16-30 with 230 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
– Concordia had four interceptions off of Shoiry. Patrick Donovan, Darnell Danglade, Sylvester Sarfo and Mark Deslauriers picked off the rookie.
-The play of the game was when Syvret was almost sacked, scrambled to his left and found Blake Butler wide open, who gained 34 yards on the play.
– The announced attendance was 4,009 at Loyola Field, in part due to Homecoming, as well as students attending the game due to the ‘Win your tuition and books’ contest, which was won by journalism student Awa Dlodlo.