CIS

Carleton Ravens win Panda Game with final play ‘you would only see in the movies’

Photo courtesy of Marta Kierkus

Five seconds left on the clock and your team is down by four points, more than half the field away, during one of the most important rivalry games of Canadian football. Scoring chances are all but gone, waning with every second.

But in what Carleton Ravens quarterback Nick Gorgichuk described as “something you would only see in the movies,” his team defied the odds and scored a touchdown with not a second to spare.

Last play, second and 10, second-string quarterback Jessie Mills threw an unbelievable 55-yard Hail Mary pass to wide receiver Nathaniel Baher, and secured the 33-31 win over the Gee-Gees, making them the 2014 Panda Game champions.

Talk about a clutch move.

The energy in the building was palpable more than three hours earlier at kickoff, as the Ravens started with as much of a bang as they finished. With less than a minute into the first quarter, defensive back James McCallum forced and recovered a fumble from Gee-Gees running back Mack Tommy, allowing Gorgichuk to rush 16 yards on the first down and put the first touchdown on the board. By the end of the first quarter the Gees would tie it up after two field goals and a rouge. By this time, chants sounded from both sides of the stadium and the excitement grew in the second quarter. Ottawa took an 11-7 lead midway through the quarter, but that quickly changed after a 42-yard touchdown pass from Gorgichuk. Minutes before halftime, the Gee-Gees bounced back again with an 18-14 lead on a 14-yard run from Tommy.

The third quarter was the slowest, with only a field goal from the Gee-Gees. Early in the fourth, the Ravens punched in two field goals, putting them up 27-21 until a four-yard run from Gees quarterback Derek Wendel put them back in the lead.

After a solid defensive stand, the Gees got the ball back and hoped to put the game out of reach, extending the lead to 31-27. Another strong Gee-Gees defensive effort led to what looked like the final offensive opportunity that the Ravens had to punt away.

But with 25 seconds on the clock, the Ravens got the ball back in an almost impossible position. Fans said their prayers and were rewarded with a Hollywood finish.

With a fairly impressive total of 500 yards in offensive play, spectators were able to watch some great highlights from the Ravens, none of which surpassed the stellar performance of wide receiver Baher. With dance-like dodges and a total of three touchdowns, Baher was in beast mode. He also earned the final highlight play that granted the Ravens the owners of Pedro.

“I am honoured to play with such a great player,” said Gorgichuck. “It is definitely an advantage to have him on the team.”

Read more: A Panda Game play-by-play 

Gees quarterback Wendel said discipline could have made all the difference in that fourth quarter.

“We just have to do our job the entire game,” he said. “When something happens at the end of the game like that it just brings you down lower than you would be before.”

Without a doubt, the Ottawa-Carleton rivalry is alive and well. The loss was heartbreaking for Gee-Gee fans, but there is plenty of excitement ahead.

“I think it strengthens the rivalry,” said Wendel.“Hopefully next year it’ll be a bit better.”

#PandaGame reached the number one trend in Canada on Twitter, and many fans described it as the best Canadian Interuniversity Sport football game they’ve ever seen.

But to Gee-Gees head coach Jamie Barresi, it was just one challenge among many this season.

“It’s another game,” he said. “Obviously it has some implications because it’s within the city, but next week is the next big game so we have to play that. We’re right were we were last year, we have four games left, and we can win them all.”

The Gee-Gees will be back home at Gee-Gees Field on Sept. 27 to take on the 1-3 Toronto Varsity Blues at 1 p.m.