Quebec rallies late to capture second straight national title
By Kevin Hirschfield, Special to Football Canada
When they fell behind in the fourth quarter of the Football Canada Cup gold medal game, there was no sign of panic from Team Quebec.
Their offence had managed just seven points and was losing the battle to Saskatchewan’s stingy defence with a championship on the line.
But there’s a reason this province has put together a Football Canada Cup dynasty this decade.
So after Saskatchewan kicked a field goal to go up 8-7 with 7:30 left, Quebec just kept sticking with the game plan. And it was then when the offence, led by quarterback Jonathan Sénécal, finally broke through.
A 74-yard scoring drive (most of those passing yards from Sénécal) was capped off by a 24-yard catch in the corner of the endzone from receiver Evens Passée-Coutrin with 4:41 to go and it put Quebec ahead for good.
Tack on 10 more points in the late stages and the final score ended up being much more lopsided than the game was, a 25-8 final, a second consecutive championship and a fifth Canada Cup title for Quebec in the last six years.
“I’m extremely proud of the guys,” said coach Marco Iadeluca. “These kids showed character, playing tough in back to back games in the second half.”
Iadeluca is referring to the semifinal game in which Quebec trailed 10-0 to Alberta at the half, only to roll off 24 second half points en route to victory.
“We’ve been talking about mental toughness since Day 1, to play the full 48 minutes every second of every game, never quit,” said coach Marco Iadeluca. “We were down 10 at halftime last game and came back, so we were still confident we could get things done (today).”
That comeback would not have been possible without the play of Sénécal, who was named the tournament’s offensive MVP. He finished 18-of-30 with 198 yards and two touchdowns.
But he admits his game-winning strike to Passée-Coutrin should have never happened.
“I didn’t throw the right ball,” said Sénécal, noting he had other guys open on the play, but decided to take the chance in the endzone. “I’m happy I completed it. It’s an accomplishment to win this MVP for my province.”
In three games, the QB from Mirabel finished with 564 yards, seven touchdowns and just a pair of interceptions.
“He’s very poised, a smart quarterback, student of the game, and we love him,” said Iadeluca. “We think he’s one of the great ones that have come through this program and we think he’s going to have a great career ahead.”
With Saskatchewan up 2-0 after one quarter, Quebec’s defence stepped up, with defensive back Randy Gibuku-Mabengo getting his first of two interceptions on the night in Saskatchewan territory. The very next play, Sénécal found the diminutive Carl Chabot streaking up the middle for a 35-yard touchdown to put Quebec up 7-2.
Both defences shut things down after that, with Saskatchewan getting a field goal in the second and fourth quarters to take a one-point lead.
But Passée-Coutrin’s heroics in the corner of the endzone were a moment he and his team will never forget.
“I had to make a play for the team, for my family, for everyone back home waiting for me,” said Passée-Coutrin, a member of the 2015 championship team. “It’s been three weeks we’ve been practicing for this, we needed gold and to come back home only with gold.”
He says last year’s victory was pretty special considering it came in their home province. But this doesn’t feel too bad, either.
“It’s an amazing feeling to win 2 years in a row. It’s crazy, it’s epic.”
Saskatchewan linebacker Ryder Varga was named the tournament’s defensive MVP, recording 10 tackles, two tackles for loss and a safety. Defensive lineman Griffin Barrett was also a force in the tournament, with five sacks, including two in the gold medal game.
It is Saskatchewan’s third straight medal at the Canada Cup, following a bronze in 2015 and silver in 2014.
The 2017 tournament will be held in Nova Scotia.
This post is also available in: French