Ontario rallies late against Alberta, advances to defend gold medal on Sunday
Photo credit: James Hajjar
With a trip to the gold medal game on the line, defending champion Ontario edged Alberta 20-18 in a come from behind victory in the first semi-final on Thursday July 16 at Cégep Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu’s Alphonse-Desjardins Stadium.
The first quarter was a feeling out process for both teams who were unable to put anything together offensively.
That would change in a hurry as Alberta’s defence manufactured the first opportunity, bringing pressure to Ontario quarterback Connor Carusello, recovering an Ontario fumble.
Taking over at the Ontario 12-yard line, a Brandt Burns 11-yard run gave Alberta a 1st and goal at the 1-yard line. The wild rose province broke the deadlock as quarterback Desmond Catellier called his own number, making the score 7-0.
Alberta’s defence continued to cause Ontario problems as linebacker Noah McDonough stepped in front of an Ontario pass, returning it to the 39-yard line. Penalties pushed Alberta’s starting field position to the 14. Alberta took full advantage as Desmond Catellier threw a tight spiral to Jacob Izquierdo in the end zone to widen the lead 14-0.
Ontario and Alberta traded field goals to make the score at halftime 17-3.
Ontario used a defensive turnover of their own to swing the momentum in their corner. While in wildcat with a receiver under centre, Alberta had difficulty with the exchange putting the ball on the ground. Ontario pounced on the fumble, taking over at their opponent’s 50-yard line.
Ontario capitalized on the opportunity with a 2-yard Dominic Gandalfino rushing touchdown to make the score 17-10.
After holding Alberta to a 2-and-out, Ontario chipped the Alberta lead to four with a long 41-yard Gabriel Siemieniec field goal, making the score 17-14 after three quarters.
The score would stay unchanged until the last minute of the game. Ontario got into scoring range as quarterback Connor Carusello connected with Gordon Lam on a 39-yard strike to set-up first and goal at the 9. With 43 seconds to play, Ontario took the lead on a broken play as quarterback Connor Carusello dropped the snap, regrouped and found receiver Gordon Lam in the end zone to give the defending champions a 20-17 lead.
With only 37 seconds on the clock, Alberta refused to quit. Starting the drive at their own 37-yard line, they drove down to the Ontario 38. With three seconds on the clock, kicker Desmond Catellier (also Alberta’s quarterback) field goal attempt missed the mark, ending the comeback as time ran out.
Both sides face the same fate as they did a year ago on day three as Ontario will play in the gold medal game while Alberta will play for bronze. The gold medal game takes place on Sunday July 19 at 7 P.M. ET while the bronze medal game kicks-off at 4 P.M.
“We were happy with the game plan, we executed well in the first half, we didn’t make any mistakes and in the second half we just didn’t do the same. We told the guys at the half zero-zero, came out the first three series offensively and made mistakes. We gave them too many chances and defensively we kept going.”
“The real thing was you’re up by three with a 1:34 to go and you’ve got the ball. If you get a couple of first downs it’s game-over but we just couldn’t. We lost five yards on first down and then we couldn’t get a first down.”
“The big thing was they were really strong defensively so to run the ball against them was extremely difficult for us and we just didn’t solve that problem, particularly in the second half.”
-Bryan Brandford, Alberta Head Coach
“I thought again we came out of the gate and made a ton of mistakes. We just weren’t ready to play. The second half, we talked about it, I told some guys it’s time to man up and play the game the way it’s supposed to be played. I think we did a fantastic job of coming out here and playing a great second half of football.”
On the second half fumble recovery
“Anytime you get a turnover its big – either it helps them or it helps you. I think for us we were able to do some things. Even the field goal just before the half got us moving in a positive direction because there wasn’t a lot of positive things going on. That was big and then we came out in the second half and scored and then got it rolling.
On the late second score to win the game
“We actually had two or three plays called; we knew exactly what we wanted to run. It was actually supposed to go to the other side but the quarterback dropped the ball and rolled the opposite way. They were trying to overcompensate for the play-action and Gordon snuck out and got open and made a play.
On potentially playing the host province for the second year in a row in the gold medal game:
“Again we just got to play football, regardless of who it is. We’ve got to come out and play our game and our style. If we do that I think we’ll be successful.”
-Glen Mills, Ontario Head Coach
|Players of the game|
|Defensive||#99 Justin Sambu, DL||#99 Mitchell Thiele, DL|
|Offensive||#82 Jacob Izquierdo, REC||#10 Gordon Lam, REC|
This post is also available in: French